One of the authors of the Southeast chapter of the Fourth National Climate Assessment — which was released Friday and received notable attention for statements made about human effects on the climate and that changing climate on human health and the economy — said there is a lot of knowledge to be gained about how warmer days and nights are affecting and going to affect vulnerable communities.
“There’s a lot more to learn about heat health and how it will influence people — not just in association with people who have pre-existing conditions, people who may be younger, older, with child, or something,” said Kirstin Dow, a professor of geography at the University of South Carolina. “There’s more to learn there, that I felt like what we saw raises the concern and the need to really get into that, so that we have clear, actionable answers and best answers to address that. I thought it was much more urgent when we thought about how it spanned everything from our economy to caring for the young and old.”
The report cited studies that suggest a warming climate would have a particular impact on the Southeast. One aspect is the prediction of a growing number of nights in which the temperature fails to fall below 75 degrees. Southeastern counties present the most people in an economically stressed state, who, at the same time, have to deal with the predicted greatest increase in the number of “cooling days.”
That presents, for everyone but especially those with lower incomes, the choice of paying higher utility bills for a healthier indoor environment versus available money to use for other necessities.
“And it’s so important for all of us who are outside in that heat, to have adequate time to let our bodies recover, so that people who are struggling at all with making sure that they have adequate air conditioning, they need that overnight cooling to help them out, and there’s going to be less of that help with less cooling hours to help people out,” Dow said. “It really does add up, in terms of the burden on your body. It’s not just the mental, ‘Oh my goodness, not again,’ it’ actually a physical burden on how your body works.”
The report stated some areas in Southeastern states could see, by the end of the century, as many as an additional 100 nights when the temperature never drops below 75 degrees. Brunswick already averages about 30 of those nights a year.
Adaptation strategies cited in the report include new trends in urban development, like a Louisville, Ky., project that installed 145,000 square feet of “cool roofs” to lessen the heat’s impact.
The National Climate Assessment is a congressionally mandated effort, and U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter, R-1, said in a statement Wednesday that he has read the report, but believes many of the suggested adaptations would harm the economy and don’t show clearly that they would mitigate the climate change issues spelled out.
“While we certainly are not yet in a place to only use 100 percent renewable energy sources, we need to continue working toward an all-of-the-above energy strategy that will one day allow us to achieve our common goal of 100 percent renewable energy,” Carter said. “We should also achieve a bipartisan infrastructure package that will help us address issues like flooding.”
Carter also said the federal government should work to encourage innovative new technologies that can help the world.
“A recent U.N. report on global emissions shows that many of the world’s largest countries, including the entire European Union, are not even close to meeting the Paris Agreement levels they committed to,” Carter said. “The United States is the home of the greatest innovators in the world and we need to foster new inventions that will help not only America address this situation, but all of the world.”
Indeed, a report by Climate Action Network Europe, which was released in June, stated that a number of EU nations, led by Sweden, are making strides but they’re still not meeting the goals set out by the 2015 agreement, which was signed by 195 countries. Other EU nations were found woefully behind. Of course, President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the Paris Agreement in June 2017.
With an eye on climate change and the steps needed to address it, the Coastal Georgia Foundation — along with the Brunswick-Golden Isles Chamber of Commerce and the College of Coastal Georgia — are holding an information session on sea level rise and its implication for Glynn County on Jan. 22, 8-11 a.m., at the Terrill Thomas Auditorium in the Southeast Georgia Conference Center at the College of Coastal Georgia.
Presenters will include experts from the National Parks Service, the state Department of Natural Resources, Georgia Tech, the University of Georgia, the Brunswick-Glynn County Joint Water and Sewer Commission and United Community Bank. More information will be forthcoming closer to the date of the event.