Georgia is a state sprawling over 57 thousand square miles, 24th largest in the US, and half of that space is covered by pine trees; the state has the most commercial forestland in the country. With a quarter of California’s population, 10.6 million people call the Peach State home, making it the 8th largest in the US. In addition to peaches, Georgia is also a top producer of peanuts, pecans, and Vidalia onions.
Sea level rise poses an urgent threat to Georgia’s economy and environment, where seas are rising more rapidly because Georgia is subsiding. Mid-Atlantic states sit on a bulge, caused by an ice sheet during the last Ice Age, which is continuing to settle downwards. As a result, the sea level rise in this region is accelerating at twice the global average. More severe storms, a well-known result of climate change, are also a particularly concerning effect in Georgia, a state often in the path of hurricanes and tropical storms.
The increasing temperatures add to the threat Georgia’s economy faces, as warmer weather will reduce crop yield and human productivity in sectors like farming, construction, and utilities. Additionally, Georgia’s healthcare system ranks 46th in the country, with an infrastructure lacking to deal with the adverse health effects of extreme heat.
Two nuclear reactors are under construction in Georgia, the first to be approved by the US Nuclear Registration in 30 years, which have planned startup dates for 2021 and 2022. Currently, nuclear power comprises a sizeable portion of Georgia’s energy generation, outranking coal but falling short of natural gas. Renewable energy, however, makes up less than 8% of Georgia’s energy generation, about half of which comes from biomass.
Historically, state policies have been hostile to solar expansion and the state legislature has pushed back on creating incentives to lower the cost of solar energy. However, since 2013, when the PSC, led by Lauren “Bubba” McDonald, Jr., required Georgia Power to install hundreds of megawatts of solar farms, solar has become 2% of Georgia’s energy. And, in 2015, the state, joining with more than two-dozen other states, passed policies allowing third parties to finance limited-sized solar systems. Its Solar Power Free-Market Financing Act allowed homes and businesses to host solar panels installed and operated by a solar provider. As a result, Georgia has become #9 in the country for installed solar capacity.
While Georgia as a state has not committed to the Paris Climate Agreement or adopted a climate adaptation plan, Atlanta, Georgia’s largest city, has stepped up. In Atlanta, city-owned buildings will use only renewable energy by 2025 and the entire city will move to renewables by 2035. Polls show that Georgians tend to support the efforts being led by Atlanta; 75% support regulating CO2 as a pollutant and 82% support funding more research into renewable energy.