By David Pendered
The federal assessment of climate change released by 13 federal agencies the day after Thanksgiving bears more than passing resemblance to an environmental report Georgia issued in 2015.
The federal report also makes several references to Atlanta and Georgia, including:
- MARTA is cited for its efforts to prepare for extreme weather events;
- Atlanta is noted for its Climate Action Plan to manage stormwater;
- Sea level rises at Fort Pulaski, near Savannah, are noted;
- The close social bonds of the people of Georgia’s sea islands illustrate why some residents may not want to move from coastal homes imperiled by flooding.
Without doubt, the state and federal reports are vastly different in scope and scale.
Georgia’s State Wildlife Action Plan focuses on threats to plants and animals, and comes in at 248 pages. Georgia’s report states that it not intended to be a climate change report, but does observe that, “climate change has become a central and defining wildlife conservation issue since the development of the original 2005 [report].”
The Fourth National Climate Assessment, at 1,656 pages, says it, “draws a direct connection between the warming atmosphere and the resulting changes that affect Americans’ lives, communities, and livelihoods, now and in the future.”
That said, given their individual capacity, the two paint striking similar vistas of the impact of climate change. For starters: Global warming will eliminate habitat for some species of plants and animals.
Two parallel examples occur in the reports on the topic of aquatic life, regional economies and climate change.
The federal report predicts that local economies may suffer as the climate changes:
- “Regional economies and industries that depend on natural resources and favorable climate conditions, such as agriculture, tourism, and fisheries, are increasingly vulnerable to impacts driven by climate change.”
The Georgia report observed that, by 2050, some plants and animals – including fish – may find it hard to survive. The report lifts up the example of brook trout, which are a major tourist attraction for the anglers who travel to North Georgia to fish for them.
The state report observes:
- “Climate change is a threat to Georgia’s aquatic diversity, and habitats are representative of the threats contributing to the global freshwater biodiversity crisis. Species such as brook trout that are restricted to higher elevation, cold water streams may be particularly susceptible to climatic shifts.”
Independent of the two reports, four governmental entities announced last month that the economic impact of the fishing for brook trout is so critical to Georgia and Tennessee that they will continue a stocking program for three additional years. The Tennessee Valley Authority and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the states of Tennessee and Georgia, observed in a statement:
- “More than 256,000 anglers are estimated to fish for trout in Tennessee and Georgia waters each year, spending about $73 for every $1 invested in the hatchery program, and producing an economic impact of about $45 million.”
The federal report predicts frequently that mankind will face an increasingly harsh environment and lower quality of life as the climate warms. The impacts will vary across regions and social strata:
- “Social, economic, and geographic factors shape the exposure of people and communities to climate-related impacts and their capacity to respond. Risks are often highest for those that are already vulnerable, including low-income communities, some communities of color, children, and the elderly.”
Georgia’s report, with its focus on wildlife, does not address ways mankind may be affected by a changing environment. It does observe:
- “We acknowledge that nearly every activity by humans on the Georgia landscape has positive or negative impacts on wildlife populations and their habitats. The purpose of developing this strategy is to provide information that may help minimize negative impacts and maximize positive impacts in a changing landscape.”