United States
                           Environmental Protection
                           Agency
                             Office of Policy, Planning
                             and Evaluation
                             (2111)
                           EPA 230-F-97-008J
                           September 1997
                            Climate  Change  And  Georgia
The earth's climate is predicted to change because human
activities are altering the chemical composition of the atmosphere
through the buildup of greenhouse gases  primarily carbon
dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and chlorofluorocarbons. The
heat-trapping property of these greenhouse gases is undisputed.
Although there is uncertainty about exactly how and when the
earth's climate will respond to enhanced concentrations of
greenhouse gases, observations indicate that detectable changes
are under way. There most likely will be increases in temperature
and changes in precipitation, soil moisture, and sea level, which
could have adverse effects on many ecological systems, as well
as on human health and the economy.
The Climate System

Energy from the sun drives the earth's weather and climate.
Atmospheric greenhouse gases (water vapor, carbon dioxide.
and other gases) trap some of the energy from the sun, creating
a natural "greenhouse effect." Without this effect, temperatures
would be much lower than they are now, and life as known today
would not be possible. Instead, thanks to greenhouse gases, the
earth's average temperature is a more hospitable 60F. However.
problems arise when the greenhouse effect is enhancedby
human-generated emissions of greenhouse gases.

Global warming would do more than add a few degrees to today's
average temperatures. Cold spells still would occur in winter, but
heat waves would be more common. Some places would be drier.
others wetter. Perhaps more important, more precipitation may
come in short, intense bursts (e.g., more than 2 inches of rain
in a day), which could lead to more flooding. Sea levels would
be higher than they would have been without global warming.
although the actual changes may vary from place to place because
coastal lands are themselves sinking or rising.

                The  Greenhouse Effect
      Solar
      radiation
      passes
      through
      the clear
               Some solar radiation
                is reflected by the
                 earth and the
              k   atmosphere
Some of the infrared radiation passes
through the atmosphere, and some is
absorbed and re-emitted in all
directions by greenhouse gas
molecules. The effect of this is to warm
the earth's surface and the lower
atmosphere.
Emissions Of Greenhouse Gases

Since the beginning of the industrial revolution, human activities
have been adding measurably to natural background levels of
greenhouse gases. The burning of fossil fuels  coal, oil, and
natural gas  for energy is the primary source of emissions.
Energy burned to run cars and trucks, heat homes and businesses.
and power factories is responsible for about 80% of global
carbon dioxide emissions, about 25% of U.S. methane emissions.
and about 20% of global nitrous oxide emissions. Increased
agriculture and deforestation, landfills, and industrial production
and mining also contribute a significant share of emissions. In
1994, the United States emitted about one-fifth of total global
greenhouse gases.


Concentrations Of Greenhouse Gases

Since the pre-industrial era, atmospheric concentrations of carbon
dioxide have increased nearly  30%, methane concentrations have
more than doubled, and nitrous oxide concentrations have risen
by about 15%. These increases have enhanced the heat-trapping
capability of the earth's atmosphere. Sulfate aerosols, common
air pollutants, cool the atmosphere by reflecting incoming solar
radiation. However, sulfates are short-lived and vary regionally.

Although many greenhouse gases already are present in the
atmosphere, oceans, and vegetation, their concentrations in the
future will depend in part on present and future emissions.
Estimating future emissions is difficult, because they will depend
on demographic, economic, technological, policy, and institu-
tional developments. Several emissions scenarios have been
developed based on differing projections of these underlying
factors. For example, by 2100, in the absence of emissions
control policies, carbon dioxide concentrations are projected to
be 30-150% higher than today's levels.


Current Climatic Changes

Global mean surface temperatures have increased 0.6-1.2F
between 1890 and 1996. The 9 warmest years in this century all
have occurred in the last 14 years.

Several pieces of additional evidence consistent with warming.
such as a decrease in Northern Hemisphere snow cover, a
decrease in Arctic Sea ice, and continued melting of alpine
glaciers, have been corroborated. Globally, sea levels have risen
4-10 inches over the past century, and precipitation over land has
increased slightly. The frequency of extreme rainfall events also
has increased throughout much of the United States.
     Source: U.S. Department of State (1992)

-------
     Global Temperature Changes (1861-1996)
   0.6

   0.4

   0.2

     0

   -0.2

   -0.4

   -0.6

   -0.8

    -1
r^  V  /
                               Year
    Source: IPCC (1995), updated
A new international scientific assessment by the Intergovern-
mental Panel on Climate Change recently concluded that "the
balance of evidence suggests a discernible human influence
on global climate."


Future Climatic Changes

For a given concentration of greenhouse gases, the resulting
increase in the atmosphere's heat-trapping ability can be pre-
dicted with precision, but the resulting impact on climate is more
uncertain. The climate system is complex and dynamic, with
constant interaction between the atmosphere, land, ice, and
oceans. Further, humans have never experienced such a rapid rise
in greenhouse gases. In effect, a large and uncontrolled planet-
wide experiment is being conducted.

General circulation models are complex computer simulations
that describe the circulation of air and ocean currents and how
energy is transported within the climate system. While uncertain-
ties remain, these models are a powerful tool for studying
climate. Scientists are reasonably confident about the ability of
models to characterize future climate at continental scales.
extreme weather of critical importance to ecological systems
(droughts, floods, frosts, cloudiness, the frequency of hot or cold
spells, and the intensity of associated fire and pest outbreaks)
could increase.
Local Climate Changes

Over the last century, the average temperature in Albany.
Georgia, has decreased 0.8F, and precipitation has increased
by up to 10% in many parts of the state.

Over the next century, climate in Georgia could experience
additional changes. For example, based on projections made by
the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and results from
the United Kingdom Hadley Centre's climate model (HadCM2).
a model that accounts for both greenhouse gases and aerosols.
by 2100 temperatures in Georgia could increase by about 2F in
summer (with a range of 1-4F), 3F in winter and spring (with a
range of 1-7F), and 4F  in fall (with a range of 2-9F). Precip-
itation is estimated to increase by about 10% in winter and
spring, and by 15-40% in summer and fall. Other climate models
may show different results, with winter precipitation increasing
more than summer precipitation. In summer and fall, the amount
of precipitation on extreme wet days is likely to increase. The
frequency of extreme hot days in summer would increase because
of the general warming trend. Although it is not clear how severe
storms such as hurricanes would change, an increase in the
frequency and intensity of summer thunderstorms is possible.
Climate Change Impacts

Global climate change poses risks to human health and to
terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. Important economic resources
such as agriculture, forestry, fisheries, and water resources also
may be affected. Warmer temperatures, more severe droughts and
floods, and sea level rise could have a wide range of impacts. All
these stresses can add to existing stresses on resources caused by
other influences such as population growth, land-use changes,
and pollution.
Recent model calculations suggest that the global surface temper-
ature could increase an average of 1.6-6.3F by 2100, with signif-
icant regional variation. These temperature changes would be far
greater than recent natural fluctuations, and they would occur
significantly faster than any known changes in the last 10,000
years. The United States is projected to warm more than the
global average, especially as fewer sulfate aerosols are produced.

The models suggest that the rate of evaporation will increase as
the climate warms, which will increase average global precipita-
tion. They also suggest increased frequency of intense rainfall as
well as a marked decrease in soil moisture over some mid-
continental regions during the summer. Sea level is projected to
increase by 6-38 inches by 2100.

Calculations of regional climate change are much less reliable
than global ones, and it is unclear whether regional climate will
become more variable. The frequency and intensity of some
     Precipitation Trends From 1900 To Present
                                     Trends/100 years
Source: Karl et al. (1996)

-------
Similar temperature changes have occurred in the past, but the
previous changes took place over centuries or millennia instead
of decades. The ability of some plants and animals to migrate
and adapt appears to be much slower than the predicted rate of
climate change.

Human Health

Higher temperatures and increased frequency of heat waves may
increase the number of heat-related deaths and the incidence of
heat-related illnesses. One study estimates that by 2050 heat-
related deaths in Atlanta during a typical summer could more
than double, from 25 heat-related deaths per summer to 60 deaths
(although increased air conditioning use may not have been fully
accounted for). Decreases in winter mortality probably would be
less than the rise in summer mortality if the climate warms. The
elderly, particularly those living alone, are at greatest risk.

Climate change could increase concentrations of ground-level
ozone. For example, high temperatures, strong sunlight, and
stable air masses tend to increase urban ozone levels. Air
pollution also is made worse by increases in natural hydrocarbon
emissions during hot weather. If a warmed climate causes
increased use of air conditioners, air pollutant emissions from
power plants also will increase.

Currently, ground-level ozone concentrations exceed national
ozone health standards in Atlanta, which is classified as a
"serious" nonattainment area. Ground-level ozone has been
shown to aggravate respiratory illnesses such as asthma, reduce
existing lung function, and induce respiratory inflammation.
In addition, ambient ozone reduces crop yields and impairs
ecosystem health.

Warming and other climate changes may increase the population
and infectivity of disease-carrying insects, thus increasing the
potential for transmission of diseases such as malaria and dengue
("break bone") fever. Mosquitos capable of transmitting malaria
flourish in Georgia. In 1996 in southwestern Georgia, there was
a case of malaria probably caused by a mosquito bite. Climate
conditions suitable for promoting development of the malaria
parasite were cited as a factor. Other mosquitos can carry Eastern
equine encephalitis, which can be lethal or cause neurological
damage. If conditions become warmer and wetter, mosquito
populations could increase, thereby increasing the risk of
transmission of these diseases.

In addition, warmer seas could contribute to the increased
intensity, duration, and extent of harmful algal blooms. These
blooms damage habitat and shellfish nurseries, can be toxic to
humans, and can carry bacteria like those causing cholera. Brown
algal tides and toxic algal blooms already are prevalent in the
Atlantic. Warmer ocean waters could increase their occurrence
and persistence.
        Future Sea Level Rise At Fort Pulaski
\aj
110
100
yu

tO





AJ
n

5% Chance  i
50% Chance  
95% Chance I










	










               2100

Source: EPA (1995)
                                        2200
                              Year
causeways, and bridges. In addition, sea level rise could
increase the vulnerability of coastal areas to storms and
associated flooding.

Georgia's coastline, only about 100 miles long, has a barrier
island system that includes 13 islands  The Golden Isles of
Georgia.  The barrier islands play a vital role in protecting the
mainland from storm surges and tidal action. Behind the barrier
islands of the Georgia coast lie extensive salt marshes dominated
by smooth cordgrass. These 375,000 acres of salt marshes make
up one-fourth of the remaining salt marshes in the eastern United
States. The highly productive marshes provide homes for oysters
and clams and serve as nursery grounds for young shrimp, crab.
and fish.  The marshes protect the shorelines from erosion and
also act as a purification system by filtering out many pollutants
added to the waters by human activities. Five major river systems
drain into Georgia's small coastal area.

At Fort Pulaski, sea level already is rising by 13 inches per
century, and it is likely to rise another 25 inches by 2100.
Wetlands along the low-lying coasts of Georgia are subsiding
and may be either flooded or washed away as sea levels rise.

Possible responses to sea level rise include building walls to
hold back the sea, allowing the sea to advance and adapting to it.
and raising the land (e.g., by replenishing beach sand, elevating
houses and infrastructure). Each of these responses will be
costly, either in out-of-pocket costs or in lost land and structures.
For example, the cumulative cost of sand replenishment to
protect the coast of Georgia from a 20-inch sea level rise by
2100 is estimated  at $154 million to $1.3 billion.
Coastal Areas

Sea level rise could lead to flooding of low-lying property, loss
of coastal wetlands, erosion of beaches, saltwater contamination
of drinking water, and decreased longevity of low-lying roads.
Water Resources

Water resources are affected by changes in precipitation as well
as by temperature, humidity, wind, and sunshine. Changes in
streamflow tend to magnify changes in precipitation. Water

-------
resources in drier climates tend to be more sensitive to climate
changes. Because evaporation is likely to increase with warmer
climate, it could result in lower river flow and lower lake levels.
particularly in the summer. If streamflow and lake levels drop.
groundwater also could be reduced. In addition, more intense
precipitation could increase flooding.

Rivers in Georgia drain into the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic
Ocean. The Apalachicola-Chatahoochee-Flint river system flows
south into the gulf; those draining east into the Atlantic include
the Savannah, the Altamaha, and several smaller rivers. Atlanta's
water supply is provided by Lake Larder, a large reservoir in the
upper Chatahoochee River basin. Several large reservoirs in the
Savannah River basin along the Georgia-South Carolina border
provide flood control, recreation, and hydropower for the region.
The major effects of climate change in these river systems
would result from precipitation changes rather than increased
evaporation from warmer temperatures. Significant increases in
precipitation could increase flood risk, whereas significant
decreases  could adversely affect power production, navigation.
and recreation.
Agriculture

The mix of crop and livestock production in a state is influenced
by climatic conditions and water availability. As climate warms.
production patterns could shift northward. Increases in climate
variability could make adaptation by farmers more difficult.
Warmer climates and less soil moisture due to increased evapora-
tion may increase the need for irrigation. However, these same
conditions could decrease water supplies, which also may be
needed by natural ecosystems, urban populations, industry, and
other sectors.

Understandably, most studies have not fully accounted for
changes in climate variability, water availability, and imperfect
responses by farmers to changing climate. Including these factors
could change modeling results substantially. Analyses that
                          assume changes in average climate and effective adaptation by
                          farmers suggest that aggregate U.S. food production would not be
                          harmed, although there may be significant regional changes.

                          In Georgia, agriculture is a $4 billion annual industry, two-thirds
                          of which comes from livestock, mainly broiler chickens and
                          cattle. Almost 20% of the crop acreage is irrigated. The major
                          crops in the state are corn, soybeans, and hay. Climate change
                          could decrease grain yields by 22% or increase them by 8%,
                          depending on whether irrigation is used. Hay and pasture yields
                          could increase more than 25%, leading to changes in acres
                          farmed and production. For example, yields could increase while
                          production falls because of a decrease in acres farmed.


                          Forests

                          Trees and forests are adapted to specific climate conditions, and
                          as climate warms, forests will change. Changes in tree species.
                          geographic range, and the health and productivity of forests can
                          be expected with a warmer climate. If conditions also become
                          drier, the current range of forests could be reduced and replaced
                          by grasslands and pasture. Even a warmer and wetter climate
                          could lead to changes; trees that are better adapted to warmer
                          conditions, such as tropical evergreens, would prevail over time.
                          Under these conditions, forests could become more dense. These
                          changes could occur during the lifetimes of today's children.
                          particularly if change is accelerated by other stresses such as fire.
                          pests, and diseases. Some of these stresses would themselves be
                          worsened by a warmer and drier climate.

                          In Georgia, longleaf and slash pine forests are likely to expand
                          northward, and they could replace some of the forests currently
                          dominated by loblolly and shortleaf pines. Wetter conditions
                          would favor expansion of oak and hickory deciduous forests and
                          the gum and cypress forests found along the southeastern
                          seaboard. In contrast, under drier conditions, 10-15% of current
                          forested areas in the west-central area of the state could be
                          replaced by grasslands.
   Changes In Agricultural Yield And Production

            Irrigated Yield                   Production
        Corn  Soybeans  Hay
          AT = 7F; Aprecip. = 3%
  Corn  Soybeans  Hay
AT = 7F; Aprecip. = -5%
Source: Mendelsohn and Neumann (in press); McCarl (personal
communication)
Ecosystems

Ecosystems in Georgia consist largely of extensive forests and
diverse wetlands, including the Okefenokee Swamp, extensive
coastal tidal marshes, tidal creeks, and riparian forests, all of
which are sensitive to changes in climate, especially changes in
rainfall. Many species in Georgia's ecosystems are already near
their range limits; given extensive human activity in the state.
climate change could harm many of them. These include several
endangered or threatened species such as the wood stork.
loggerhead sea turtle, piping plover, peregrine falcon, alligator.
manatee, and bald eagle. Changes in rainfall would alter
streamflow and flooding patterns of wetlands, which are very
sensitive to fairly small changes in water levels. Some warm
water species that are sensitive to water temperature, such as the
black crappie, could lose much of their habitat.

For further information about the potential impacts of climate
change, contact the Climate and Policy Assessment Division
(2174), U.S. EPA, 401 M Street SW, Washington, DC 20460.

-------