4%	United States	August 2016
Environmental Protection
M"LI '*f\ Agency	EPA 430-F-16-012
What Climate Change
Means fori
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In the coming decades, Georgia will become warmer, and the
state will probably experience more severe floods and drought.
Even today, more rain is falling in heavy downpours, and sea level
is rising about one inch every decade. Higher water levels are
eroding beaches, submerging low lands, and exacerbating coastal
flooding. 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.
Our climate is changing because the earth is warming. People have
increased the amount of carbon dioxide in the air by 40 percent
since the late 1700s. Other heat-trapping greenhouse gases are
also increasing. These gases have warmed the surface and lower
atmosphere of our planet about one degree (F) during the last
50 years. Evaporation increases as the atmosphere warms, which
increases humidity, average rainfall, and the frequency of heavy
rainstorms in many places—but contributes to drought in others.
Greenhouse gases are also changing the world's oceans and ice
cover. Carbon dioxide reacts with water to form carbonic acid, so
the oceans are becoming more acidic. The surface of the ocean
has warmed about one degree during the last 80 years. Warming
is causing snow to melt earlier in spring, and mountain glaciers are
retreating. Even the great ice sheets on Greenland and Antarctica
are shrinking. Thus the sea is rising at an increasing rate.
Temperature change ( F):
-0.5 0 0.5 1 1.5 2 2.5 3 3.5
Rising temperatures in the last century. Georgia has warmed less than
most of the United States. Source: EPA, Climate Change Indicators in the
United States.
Rising Seas and Retreating Shores
Sea level is rising more rapidly in Georgia than along most
coasts because the land is sinking. If the oceans and
atmosphere continue to warm, sea level is likely to rise one
to four feet in the next century along the coast of Georgia.
Rising sea level submerges wetlands and dry land, erodes
beaches, and exacerbates coastal flooding.
Coastal Storms, Homes, and Infrastructure
Tropical storms and hurricanes have become more intense
during the past 20 years. Although warming oceans provide
these storms with more potential energy, scientists are not
sure whether the recent intensification reflects a long-term
trend. Nevertheless, hurricane wind speeds and rainfall
rates are likely to increase as the climate continues to
Whether or not storms become more intense, coastal
homes and infrastructure will flood more often as sea level
rises, because storm surges will become higher as well.
Rising sea level is likely to increase flood insurance rates,
while more frequent storms could increase the deductible
for wind damage in homeowner insurance policies. Parts of
Savannah and Brunswick are vulnerable to coastal flooding,
which is likely to become more severe as sea level rises.
Water Resources, Flooding, and Drought
Changing the climate is likely to increase the severity of
both inland flooding and droughts. 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.
Rising temperatures are likely to increase the demand for
water but make it less available. Warmer temperatures
increase the rate at which water evaporates (or transpires)
into the air from soils, plants, and surface waters. Because
irrigated farmland would need more water, the totai demand
for water is likely to increase 10 to 50 percent during the

A drought in 2007 lowered water levels in Lake Lanier which
threatened metropolitan Atlanta's water supply and interfered with
recreational activities. Droughts could become more severe as the
climate warms. Credit: Bill Kinsiand, National Weather Service.
next half century. But the amount of available water is likely to
decrease, and soils are likely to become drier in most of the
state, except along the coast.
As temperatures rise, less water is likely to flow into the Chat-
tahoochee and other major rivers. Decreased river flows can
lower the water level in Lake Lanier and other reservoirs, which
may limit municipal water supplies for Atlanta and other cities.
Lower water levels may also impair ecosystems, swimming,
and other recreational activities, and reduce hydroelectric power
Agriculture and Forest Resources
Changing the climate will have both harmful and beneficial
effects on farming. Although hotter temperatures alone would
tend to depress crop yields, higher concentrations of
atmospheric carbon dioxide increase yields, and that fertilizing
effect is likely to offset the harmful effects of heat on cotton,
peanuts, soybeans, and wheat—if adequate water is available.
More severe droughts, however, could cause crop failures.
Higher temperatures are likely to reduce livestock productivity,
because heat stress disrupts the animals' metabolism.
Warmer temperatures and changes in rainfall are unlikely to
substantially reduce forest cover in Georgia, although the
composition of trees in the forests may change. More droughts
would reduce forest productivity, and climate change is also
likely to increase the damage from insects and disease. But
longer growing seasons and increased carbon dioxide
concentrations could more than offset the losses from those
factors. Forests cover about half of the state, with oak-pine
forests common in the north, loblolly-shortleaf pine forests
common in the center, and longleaf-slash pine forests common in
the south. Changing the climate may enable oak-pine forests to
become the most common forest type throughout the state.
Human Health
Hot days can be unhealthy—even dangerous. Certain people
are especially vulnerable, including children, the elderly, the
sick, and the poor. High air temperatures can cause heat
stroke and dehydration and affect people's cardiovascular and
nervous systems. Seventy years from now, most of Georgia is
likely to have 45 to 75 days per year with temperatures above
95°F, compared with about 15 to 30 such days today.
Warmer air can also increase the formation of ground-level
ozone, a key component of smog. Ozone has a variety of health
effects, aggravates lung diseases such as asthma, and
increases the risk of premature death from heart or lung
disease. EPA and the Georgia Environmental Protection Division
have been working to reduce ozone concentrations. As the
climate changes, continued progress toward clean air will be
more difficult.
in large metropolitan areas like Atlanta, buildings and paved surfaces
create an "urban heat island" that raises temperatures above surround-
ing areas and can worsen the health impacts of a heat wave. Stock
The sources of information about climate and the impacts of climate change in this publication are: the national climate assessments by the U.S. Global Change
Research Program, synthesis and assessment products by the U.S. Climate Change Science Program, assessment reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate
Change, ana EPA's Climate Change Indicators in the United States. Mention of a particular season, location, species, or any other aspect of an impact does not imply
anything about the likelihood or importance of aspects that are not mentioned. For more information about climate change science, impacts, responses, and what you
can do, visit EPA's Climate Change website atwww.epa.gov/climatechanae.