Changing Weather Patterns on Minds of Georgians

May 16, 2018

Gale Horton Gay

This article appeared in the May 2018 issue of the Georgia's Cities newspaper.
Regardless of where one lives or works in the Peach State, changes in the climate can have a profound effect on everyday life.

Officials throughout many Georgia communities are paying close attention to how changing weather patterns affect their areas, and some are taking or considering steps to mitigate the negative effect of those shifts.

Changes in rainfall patterns, storms, drought, floods, wildfires and other climate-related situations affect farmers, fishermen, businesses, municipalities and residents in a myriad of ways, according to Charles McMillan, Georgia Conservancy’s coastal director.

“Sometimes there’s not enough water and sometimes there’s too much,” he said.

A number of state and national agencies have been addressing the issue of climate change for some time.

“Like other southeastern states, Georgia has warmed less than most of the nation during the last century. But during the next few decades, the changing climate is likely to harm livestock, increase the number of unpleasantly hot days, and increase the risk of heat stroke and other heat-related illnesses,” according to a 2016 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency missive “What Climate Change Means to Georgia.”

“Changing the climate is likely to increase the severity of both inland flooding and droughts,” the document continues. “Since 1958, the amount of precipitation falling during heavy rainstorms has increased by 27 percent in the Southeast, and the trend toward increasingly heavy rainstorms is likely to continue.”

Drought will have a big impact on the production of many Georgia crops including peanuts, pecans, peaches and Vidalia onions, which can only be grown in fields around Vidalia and Glennville. The historic 2007 drought cost the Georgia agriculture industry
$339  million  in  crop losses, according  to information  found  at Georgia/all.

The Coastal Resources Division also hosted the state’s first climate readiness conference in 2016. “Prepare, Respond and Adapt: Is Georgia Climate Ready?” drew 200 professionals including researchers, planners and attorneys. The two-day event on Jekyll Island involved 16 panel discussions including one that addressed legal exposure local governments might face related to climate issues.

A climate readiness conference is also being planned for 2019 in Atlanta.

A National Park Service “State of the Park Report for Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park” also touched on climate change. “Climate change will manifest itself not only as shifts in mean conditions (e.g., increasing mean annual temperature) but also as changes in climate variability (e.g., more intense storms and droughts),” the report states. “Put another way, land managers are dealing with both rapid directional change and tremendous uncertainty. Understanding climate change projections and associated levels of uncertainty will facilitate planning actions that are robust regardless of the precise magnitude of change experienced in the coming decades.”

McMillan notes that while there’s been concerted efforts to address sea level rise and the effects of climate change along the Georgia coast due to repeated damage from storms and flooding, inland communities don’t seem to share the urgency.

“Other places that have higher elevation may not be paying as much attention to it,” he said.

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