Alabama has a population of 4.9 million and the state spreads across more than 50 thousand square miles, making it the 30th largest state by area. Alabama is known for its iron and steel natural resources, and, less commonly, for being the home of the largest snail population in the US. Of all the snails in the country 43% can be found in Alabama!
Warmer waters and winters are contributing to a rise of invasive species and pests in Alabama threatening the state’s ecosystems and consequently its economy — agriculture and forestry account for 22% of the workforce — and the health of its citizens. Extreme heat, insect-carried diseases, and air and water pollution disproportionately affect the elderly, as well as people living in poverty and folks of color. For Alabama, ranking 42nd in the country for healthcare, climate-related health risks are particularly concerning.
As a coastal state, Alabama is also impacted by sea level rise directly resulting from climate change. Experts project that by mid-century, floods are likely to exceed six feet beyond the high tide line, exposing $8 billion worth of property value and the homes of more than 13,500 people. In a ten-foot increase scenario, the number of people vulnerable to displacement will more than double. More frequent, more severe rainstorms compound these issues.
Alabama ranks among the top 15 states in energy use per capita, primarily due to the industrial sector, but its production of energy still exceeds its consumption. The state ranks 6th in net energy production and 5th in nuclear power production. While Alabama has sizeable deposits of coal, the proportion of coal contributing to the state’s net generation has been halved to 19% since 2009. Nuclear contributes 31%; gas 40%; coal 19%. Renewable resources are growing in Alabama, with 8% of in-state electricity coming from hydroelectricity and 2% from biomass, thanks to the state’s vast forests.
Alabama lacks a comprehensive climate change plan, and state officials have historically been resistant to confronting the issue. From 2009 to 2011, calls for action within a Democratically-controlled legislature devolved into prohibitions on the EPA’s regulation of greenhouse gases led by the then Republican majority. Despite bureaucratic lethargy, however, Alabama’s residents are calling for action. 63% of Alabaman’s believe climate change is happening, 70% support regulation of CO2, and almost 80% support funding renewable energy research.
CREDIT: Birmingham Zoo