Opinion Columns & Blogs

Heat, drought, fire, and floods – climate change has already arrived for Georgia

Wayne Granade, left, walks through the twisted trees on the ground near his home at Flint River Estates where he saw the tops of big trees coming at him from a ferocious wind in October.
Wayne Granade, left, walks through the twisted trees on the ground near his home at Flint River Estates where he saw the tops of big trees coming at him from a ferocious wind in October. bcabell@macon.com

In case you missed it, your federal government recently released a comprehensive report on the projected human and economic costs of man-made climate change. According to that report, those costs are going to be very high, and they are already occurring.

The fact that such a pessimistic report was released came as a surprise to many given that our current president is a well-known climate change denier who has a very cozy relationship with his pals in the fossil fuel industry. But it wasn’t his call, since a law passed before his time mandated that federal agencies produce a detailed climate change status report every four years to help Congress set policy to deal with the issue.

Of course for the first two years of the Trump administration “dealing with the issue” of climate change meant trying to undo everything President Barack Obama had done to try and tamp down the country’s burning of fossil fuels and encourage a transition to renewable sources of energy. Now that Democrats will soon control one of the two branches of Congress, there should at least be a renewed debate over what we should do about climate change going forward.

But if you believe this report has any validity there seems to be little hope that a divided government will be able to generate the kind of radical transformation away from our dependency on fossil fuels for power generation that would be required to keep the worst consequences of climate change at bay. And even if we could manage such a feat this is a worldwide problem, and a solution would require all countries working together to bring a virtual end to the burning of fossil fuels in a very short period of time.

In other words, welcome to the new, warmer and less hospitable planet Earth. Here are some of the things we have to look forward to over the next several decades right here in Georgia as the temperature continues to rise.

Heat. The projected rise in average temperatures in coming decades is going to mean more people dying from heat-related illnesses, especially older folks and people who have to work outdoors to make a living.

Drought. We endured a historic drought in 2007, and a pretty bad one in 2016, too. There will be more, and they will be devastating to farmers in our state.

Forest fires. When you have heat, drought and lots of trees, forest fires are going to be a problem. Georgia has lots of trees.

Coastal flooding. Our state doesn’t have a lot of coastal land, but what we have is already feeling the effects of melting glaciers and rising sea levels. We’ve already begun to say a slow goodbye to Tybee Island.

More powerful hurricanes. Warmer oceans are fertile breeding grounds for powerful storms, and even the most obstinate climate change denier can’t ignore the fact that we are experiencing what used to be once-in-a-generation powerful hurricanes on a regular basis now.

As we adjust to the new, less people-friendly climate keep in mind these are not “acts of God.” This is the world we’ve created for ourselves and will be passing down to our children because of our failure to take energy conservation seriously, our love for big gas-guzzling automobiles, and our support for politicians such as Donald Trump who ignore science to keep the money flowing to the fat cats in the fossil fuel industry.

Bill Ferguson is a resident of Warner Robins. Readers can write him at fergcolumn@hotmail.com.