TENNESSEE

TENNESSEE

TENNESSEE

Tennessee, land of country music and smoky mountains, is home to 6.83 million people over 42,144 square miles. Tennessee’s geography is extremely unique, with the Appalachian and Great Smoky Mountains by the eastern North Carolinian border and a relatively flat half by the Mississippi River to the west on the Missouri and Arkansas border. Tennessee is sandwiched between the milder-climates of states like Kentucky and Virginia and the Deep South climate of Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi. Tennessee has 10 official state songs. The first is “My Homeland, Tennessee,” adopted in 1925, but the most famous one is “Rocky Top,” adopted in 1982

Tennessee is an interesting case when it comes to climate change. Natural cycles and sulfates in the air prevented much of Tennessee from warming during the last century. Sulfates are air pollutants that reflect sunlight back into space, preventing the greenhouse effect. Now, sulfate emissions are declining and Tennessee is warming.

Annual precipitation in Tennessee has increased by 5% since the first half of the 20th century. However, rising temperatures cause increased evaporation, so although rainfall is expected to continue to rise, the total amount of water running into rivers or recharging ground water each year is likely to decline 2.5-5%. Droughts are likely to be more severe because periods without rain will be longer, and very hot days will be more frequent.

When rainfall increases but periods without rain get longer, flooding is inevitable. Flooding is already becoming more severe. Since 1958, the amount of precipitation falling during heavy rainstorms alone has increased by a full 27% in the Southeast, and the trend is likely to continue. 

Severe droughts and more hot days reduce farm yields, especially in the western half of Tennessee. These hot days will particularly impact corn and soybeans, two major cash crops. Warmer temperatures are also likely to reduce the productivity of dairy and other cattle farms.

Another less obvious problem with droughts and rainstorms is damage to Tennessee’s river trade. During droughts, the Tennessee Valley Authority and the Corps of Engineers release water from dams to keep the Tennessee and Cumberland rivers navigable. These rivers support $35 billion in annual shipping. The agencies try to keep channels at least eleven feet deep, because lower river levels can force barges to carry smaller loads, which increases transportation costs.

Tennessee’s government leaves something to be desired in terms of climate change legislation. The state’s current governor has made statements in the past against climate change, equivocating, “There are a lot of studies that have had a lot of different outcomes,” when asked if he believed that climate change was real. However, former Tennessee governors and local state authorities have taken minor action. In 2009, Tennessee commissioned an assessment of the impacts of climate change on the state (though it was mandated by Congress). The city of Memphis did highlight climate change adaptation in its GreenPrint area study in 2015, which spells out a vision for the greater Memphis region over the next 25 years. However, as of now, the state of Tennessee has no climate change adaptation plan

In energy consumption, Tennessee ranks among the top one-third of the states and near the median of energy consumption per capita. The transportation sector alone accounts for 30% of the state’s energy usage. Manufacturing takes slightly under another 30% of the state’s consumption, and most of the rest of the state’s energy goes to heating and cooling in the residential sector.The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) owns more than 90% of Tennessee’s electricity generating capacity, including 19 hydroelectric dams, seven natural-gas fired plants, four coal-fired power plants, two nuclear power plants, and one pumped-storage hydroelectric plant. TVA also has one wind farm and seven small solar farms. Nuclear power accounts for 44% of the state’s generation. Coal accounts for 23%, natural gas at 20%, and hydroelectric power at 12%. All of the rest (1%) of Tennessee’s generation came from other renewable power sources. Biomass makes up the majority of that 1%, with solar energy making up the rest.

Time to Wake Up: Climate Change in Tennessee

CURRENT NEWS

KEY RESOURCES

Tennessee State Profile and Energy Estimates

10/26/21
Tennessee stretches almost 500 miles across from the state's eastern border with Virginia and North Carolina to its western border at the Mississippi River. Tennessee's westernmost city, Memphis, is one of the world's busiest hubs…

Energy State Bill Tracking Database

09/10/21
The searchable Energy Storage Legislation Database displays information in interactive maps and charts, tracking state activity from 2017 to the present.

Environment and Natural Resources State Bill Tracking Database

09/01/21
The National Conference of State Legislatures tracks environment and natural resources bills that have been introduced in the 50 states, territories and Washington, D.C.

The First National Flood Risk Assessment

10/06/20
The First Street Foundation Flood Model represents the culmination of decades of research and development made possible by building upon existing knowledge and frameworks regularly referenced in the identification of flood risk.

The Impacts of Climate Change and the Trump Administration’s Anti-Environmental Agenda in Tennessee

09/19/20
Between 2017 and 2019, Tennessee experienced five severe storms, two floods, one winter storm, one tropical cyclone, and one freeze. The damages of each event led to losses of at least $1 billion.

State-by-State: Climate Change in Tennessee

08/06/20
Tennessee is vulnerable to droughts, floods and reduced hydroelectric potential

Climate Change Impacts On Tennessee

04/30/20
The earth’s climate is changing because of excess carbon dioxide pollution in the atmosphere, generated when fossil fuels like coal, oil, and natural gas are burned. This extra carbon traps more heat, like a greenhouse,…

‘climate change; Sustaining Tennessee’

04/30/20
Vanderbilt engineers play role in Tennessee climate change report.

Climate change in Tennessee

04/30/20
While climate change is often talked about in the future tense, our climate is already changing in both averages and the number and intensity of extremes. Tennessee has recently experienced both record flooding and unprecedented…

Tennessee

04/30/20
Climate change means more mosquito days, increasing Zika risk.

What Climate Change Means for Tennessee

04/30/20
Tennessee’s climate is changing. Although the average temperature did not change much during the 20th century, the state has warmed in the last 20 years. Average annual rainfall is increasing, and a rising percentage of…

Working on climate change research

04/30/20
A recent Roane State graduate is researching climate change and the microorganisms that contribute to it.

Climate change study finds big changes for Tennessee cities in 2080

04/30/20
A new study examining climate change and potential future impacts found depending on where you live in Tennessee, the climate could see some big changes.

Stories from the Renew Tennessee Campaign

04/30/20
The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy started the Renew Tennessee campaign back in 2018 with goals of lowering utility bills for Tennesseans most in need, increasing access to clean, renewable energy, and putting the “public”…

The Perils of Climate Change in Tennessee

10/01/12
Growing up in the Upstate area of South Carolina, my family and I oftentimes made the short trip to the Great Smoky Mountains, the most visited of all the national parks. We would play in…

MORE NEWS

University Of Tennessee Accelerator Will Help Clean Energy Startups Develop Climate-saving Tech

By Becca Wright  Photo: Saul Young/News Sentinel   02/14/22  
The Knoxville-Oak Ridge corridor is adding another resource to help make the region an innovation hub for clean energy companies. The University of Tennessee Spark Innovation Center is recruiting early-stage, high-growth startups for its Spark…

Climate change and tornadoes in Tennessee

By Adam Tamburin   12/14/21  
Scientists are pointing to increasing signs that climate change is altering tornado outbreaks in ways that appear to make them bigger and more damaging, Axios' Andrew Freedman reports.

Vanderbilt contributes to smart interstate infrastructure venture

By Cedric Dent Jr.   09/13/21  
A new traffic management system for Interstates 24 and 40 paints a futuristic picture of Nashville embracing its emergence as a tech hub with interstate traffic that runs on data at least as much as…

Enexor Selected by 100+ Accelerator to Mitigate Climate Change

09/13/21  
Enexor BioEnergy, LLC, of Franklin, Tenn., the renewable energy and carbon conversion solution for organic, biomass, and plastic waste problems, announced that it has been selected into the prestigious 100+ Accelerator to find solutions to…

Emails, docs show TVA’s ties to fight against federal regs

By Sean Reilley  Photo: Claudine Hellmuth , E&E News   09/13/21  
The statement from the Tennessee Valley Authority’s chief executive sounded straightforward. In “no instances,” Jeff Lyash assured members of Congress two years ago, had the federal power giant given a utility industry trade group the go-ahead…

New solar farm Clearloop breaks ground, preparing to power Jackson homes with solar energy

By Angele Latham  Photo: Paula Ospina , The Jackson Sun   09/03/21  
Clear blue skies and golden sunlight greeted attendees of Thursday’s groundbreaking ceremony of Jackson’s newest renewable energy source, Clearloop solar farm.

This startup helps build solar farms where the grid is dirtiest

By Adele Peters  Photo: Zhaojiankang , istock   08/31/21  
Tennessee is a fairly sunny state. But it has three times less solar power than comparatively cloudy Oregon, in part because policies in Oregon—a state that’s aiming for 100% renewable electricity by 2040—give more support. Adding a…

See how much of its wind energy potential Tennessee uses

By Stacker  Photo: Nick Marks , Shutterstocks   08/31/21  
Wind power is generated when kinetic energy from turbine propellers is converted to mechanical energy.

How Government Decisions Left Tennessee Exposed to Deadly Flooding

By Christopher Flavelle  Photo: Brandon Dill , The New York Times   08/26/21  
The floods that killed at least 20 people in Tennessee last weekend arrived with shocking speed and force — seemingly a case study of the difficulties of protecting people from explosive rainstorms as climate change…

A Tidal Wave of Water and at Least 21 Deaths as Floodwaters Ravage Rural Tennessee

By Rick Rojas and Michael Levenson  Photo: Mark Humphrey , The Associated Press   08/26/21  
 In one moment, Rickey Larkin saw the creek running behind his home spill over its banks. The next, he said, he was engulfed by an ocean. His pickup was carried away by the currents. Then,…

‘Our People Need Help’: Devastation in Tennessee, as Experts Warn of Flooding Risks

By Rick Rojas, Winston Choi-Schagrin and Tariro Mzezewa  Photo: Houston Cofield , The New York Times   08/25/21  
With floodwaters rising rapidly, 15-year-old Lilly Bryant and her older sister managed to find some wooden debris to cling to, but it offered only short-term relief. The makeshift raft hit a tree and split in…
npr

The Floods In Tennessee Aren’t Freak Accidents. They’re A New Reality

By Rebecca Herscher  Photo: Mark Humphrey , AP   08/23/21  
The rain fell fast and hard in Middle Tennessee over the weekend, harder than it has ever fallen before. Up to 17 inches of rain inundated parts of the state in less than 24 hours…

Tennessee’s 10 Biggest Climate Polluters

By Carolene Eggers   08/16/21  
The United Nations’ latest report on climate change says planetary warming has caused widespread and rapid changes to Earth’s oceans, ice and land surface. The continued rise in global temperatures caused by the burning of fossil fuels…

Enthusiasm for cycling soared in Memphis during the pandemic, shows little sign of slowing

By Lucas Finton  Photo: Lucas Finton   07/08/21  
Many Memphians who started putting their feet to the pedals during the early parts of the pandemic might have picked up a long-lasting hobby. During much of the last year, heightened demand for bicycles led many local shops…

New Tennessee solar farm to provide Facebook data center with 110MW of renewable energy

By Dan Swinhoe   05/20/21  
A new $140 million solar farm in Shelby County, Tennessee is to power Facebook’s data center in the state. The Tennessee Valley Authority this week announced a partnership with Facebook and energy company RWE Renewables…

Kerry aims to talk US back into a lead role in climate fight

By Ellen Knickmeyer  Photo by Patrick Semansky   01/26/21  
From a wood-paneled library in his Boston mansion, new climate envoy John Kerry is talking the U.S. back into a leading role in global climate action, making clear the nation isn't just revving up its…

Mayor John Cooper, Sustainability Experts Meet on Carbon Emissions Reduction

By Andrea Fanta   01/25/21  
Mayor John Cooper today met with experts about reducing harmful carbon emissions in Nashville, a latest step in his work to make Davidson County’s neighborhoods cleaner, more livable and more climate-change resilient.
TBP

Sierra Club releases report grading utilities on their clean energy efforts

By Jeff Della Rosa   01/25/21  
Environmental group Sierra Club released Monday (Jan. 25) a report and research tool that grades U.S. utilities based on their plans to retire coal plants, stop building natural gas plants and invest in renewable energy…

Report: Severe weather events caused nearly $4 billion in damage across Tennessee in 2020

By Eric Hilt   01/19/21  
According to a new report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), severe climate events caused nearly $4 billion in damage across Tennessee in 2020. The total includes damages from the March 2020 tornadoes,…

Two Decades Of Roadless Rule Helped Fight Climate Change

By Nadia Ramlagan   01/12/21  
The Roadless Rule became law 20 years ago today. The bedrock conservation policy halted commercial logging and the building of new roads across nearly 60 million remote acres of national forests nationwide.

The TVA’s slower pace toward renewable energy weakens Nashville’s future, report finds

By James Bruggers   10/13/20  
The report suggests Nashville and communities in seven southeast states could suffer economically if the TVA doesn’t speed up its energy transition.

Plastic is the enemy of the environment and fighting climate change

By Katherine Allison  Photo by Getty Images   10/13/20  
It is estimated that the harm plastic production pushes onto the environment costs at least $40 billion a year, including polluted air, water and land.

Tennessee startup finding the best places in the sun to help battle global warming

By Dave Flessner  Photo by Tim Barber   10/12/20  
A Boston startup company committed to making snacks that are good for people and the planet has turned to a sunny spot in Jackson, Tennessee, for cleaner and greener power.

TVA unveils 40-MWh battery project in Tennessee

By Ivan Shumkov   09/22/20  
The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) said on Monday it is installing a 40-MWh battery energy storage system (BESS) near an industrial complex in Vonore, Tennessee.

Cities With the Highest Flood Risk in Every State

By Andrew Lisa   08/23/20  
Floods accounted for three of the 14 natural disasters that caused at least $1 billion in damage in the United States in 2019. In total, flooding impacted 14 million Americans last year and put another…

How Tennessee farmers are helping to fight climate change | Opinion

By John Castellaw   08/21/20  
Improved technology and farming practices are growing crops more efficiently while benefiting the environment.

Study says Memphis could save $120 million by replacing TVA

By Dave Flessner   05/29/20  
A new study suggests that TVA's biggest customer could save at least $120 million a year by generating its own natural gas and solar power and joining a nearby regional transmission organization to replace the…

General Motors Signs PPA For Renewable Energy At Spring Hill Factory

By Steve Hanley   05/23/20  
The Spring Hill factory, originally constructed for the company’s ill-fated Saturn division, is the largest GM site in North America. It covers 2,100 acres and currently builds the GMC Acadia and the Cadillac XT5 and…

GM to power Tennessee manufacturing plant with solar power only

By Dave Flessner  Photo by Jae s. Lee   05/15/20  
GM is buying the renewable power through TVA's Green Invest program, which allows electric customers to use only renewable generation for their electricity supply from TVA at the cost of such generation. As solar generation…

GM to Buy Enough Solar to Power Tennessee Plant by Late 2022

05/15/20  
The automaker announced Thursday that its agreement at its Spring plant with the Tennessee Valley Authority is expected to provide up to 100 megawatts of solar energy annually, the amount used by 18,000 U.S. households…

Knoxville Mayor’s Climate Council Holds First Meeting

By Brady Watson   05/14/20  
On Tuesday, Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon’s newly formed Climate Council convened for the first time in what will be a months-long process to develop a plan to help the city meet its goal of reducing…

Mine proposed on beloved Tennessee river and floodplain draws concern

Photo by Byron Jorjorian   05/12/20  
SELC and its partners are asking the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation to revise a draft permit to account for the flood-related discharges that will occur as a result of the project, and to…

Nuclear, renewables surpass coal on Tennessee Valley Authority system

By Dan Haugen   05/07/20  
• Oil companies argued before an appeals court yesterday that a climate lawsuit led by Colorado communities should be moved to federal court. (Drilled News)

TVA getting more power from renewables than coal this year

By Dave Flessner   05/06/20  
For the first time in more than six decades, the Tennessee Valley Authority got more power from renewable sources than from burning coal during the first three months of 2020.
By Pamela King  Photo by Francis Chung   05/06/20  
Several other battles between states over water from rivers and aquifers could also soon make it to the nation's highest bench, said Beveridge & Diamond PC principal John Cruden to an audience during a recent…

BrightRidge, Tennessee Valley Authority issuing certificates to solar customers

Photo by Robert Houk   05/05/20  
“We appreciate that our region is forward looking as well, with many customers eager to see cleaner energy solutions powering their daily lives,” BrightRidge CEO Jeff Dykes said in a news release Monday. “Through BrightRidge…

City of Knoxville Takes Step to Realizing Carbon Reduction Goals

By Brady Watson   05/05/20  
The City of Knoxville has already met and surpassed its 2020 goal of reducing emissions from City government operations by 20% compared to a 2005 baseline, in fact reducing them by 30% thus far. This…

Want a Green New Deal? Start by Protecting the Tennessee Valley Authority

By Fred Stafford   05/05/20  
That should all sound familiar to supporters of Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and the Green New Deal. The TVA is, in fact, our best example of public power — and it’s already here. Bernie’s Green…

The Impacts of Climate Change and the Trump Administration’s Anti-Environmental Agenda in Tennessee

Photo by Paul Harris   05/01/20  
Just in the past three years, the Trump administration has attempted to roll back at least 95 environmental rules and regulations to the detriment of the environment and Americans’ public health. Moreover, the administration refuses…

Deadly drift: Tornadoes rise in the Southeast as they decline in the Midwest

By Ben Benton   04/18/20  
Is "Tornado Alley" shifting east? Experts say Easter Sunday's tornado outbreak was a textbook example of weather trends showing rising tornado numbers and severity in the mid-South and Southeast, which is increasingly becoming a tornado…

Knoxville conference highlights bipartisan hope on climate change

By Mark Reynolds and Jan Berry  Photo by Drew Angerer   03/05/20  
The Southeast Climate Conference will take place March 28-29 in Knoxville and will feature bipartisan speakers.

No, we can’t blame tornadoes on climate change … yet.

By Shannon Osaka  Photo by Chad Cowan   03/04/20  
As tornadoes ripped through Nashville, Tennessee on Tuesday, destroying homes and neighborhoods, some saw a larger, planet-tampering force at work: climate change.

TVA turns to the sun for more power but shifts its focus from rooftop solar to large-scale projects

By Dave Flessner  Photo by Tim Barber   02/11/20  
The Tennessee Valley Authority, which went underground to generate most of its power from coal a generation ago, is looking up to the sun for more of its power in the future. In response to…

Report: Rejoining Climate Agreement Could Save Lives, Billions of Dollars in Tennessee

By Toby Sells  Photo by Justin Fox Burks   01/29/20  
Tennessee could save thousands of lives and billions of dollars if the U.S. would rejoin the Paris Agreement on climate change.

Vanderbilt commits to first-of-its-kind renewable energy partnership with TVA, NES

By Katherine Keith   01/22/20  
Silicon Ranch Corporation to build Bedford County solar farm to open in 2022.

Mayor Cooper signs climate change initiative, announces new sustainability practices in Nashville

By Kyle Cooke   12/05/19  
Nashville Mayor John Cooper announced Thursday that his administration signed onto the Global Covenant of Mayors, a group of thousands of cities and governments around the world focused on battling climate change and reducing greenhouse…

Al Gore Is Opening a New Front In the War On Climate Change

By Emily Chasan  Photo by Gabrielle Hathaway   10/30/19  
Oceans are acidifying and the atmosphere is warming. But a critical part of the solution, the former vice president says, is underneath our feet.

An ‘apocalyptic’ problem: Nashville students to join nationwide youth climate strike on Friday

By Jessica Bliss  Photo by Larry McCormack   09/20/19  
Erin Dundon's interest in climate change started rather "garden variety," if you will. She had always accepted the science behind Earth's changing weather patterns, and it became more and more apparent into her teenage years…

‘I believe climate change is real,’ Sen. Lamar Alexander writes in op-ed

By Laken Bowles  Photo by Mark Wilson   09/10/19  
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R – Tennessee) has a plan to fight climate change. In an op-ed published in the Washington Times, the outgoing U.S. senator proposed a five-year project that would “use American research and…

Heat, Diseases, Infrastructure: Federal climate change report on Tennessee impacts

By Adrian Mojica   11/27/18  
The Fourth National Climate Assessment report released last week finds Tennessee will be among states where infrastructure, increasing heat, and vector-borne diseases see a continued rise.