Writing in Sunday’s AJC, Dan Chapman and Greg Bluestein take a look at the climate-induced changes already underway along the Georgia coast and at the continuing sense of denial by the state’s political leadership:
“Brian Robinson, a spokesman for Gov. Nathan Deal, wouldn’t answer questions about the governor’s views on climate change. U.S. Sen. David Perdue, a Republican who lives on Sea Island, a barrier island threatened by rising seas, said “the scientific community is not in total agreement about whether mankind has been a contributing factor.”
As they report, a tidal gauge off Fort Pulaski near Tybee Island documents a sea-level rise of 11 inches over the past 80 years, with the pace accelerating since the 1990s. Should that trend continue, as scientists warn it will without effective action, most of the state’s barrier islands will disappear in the next century, as will much of the sea marsh that makes our coastal region so beautiful and so ecologically diverse and productive.
It’s true that, as Perdue puts it, “the scientific community is not in total agreement” about mankind’s role in those changes. However, “total agreement” strikes me as a peculiar standard for taking action. In most other policy areas, the overwhelming consensus of the acknowledged experts, augmented by the fact that since the 1980s that expert opinion has been validated by visible changes in the field, would be enough to push policymakers to take action, particularly when the potential consequences of doing nothing are so profound.
That’s certainly been the approach taken by the Obama administration. Under its new climate-change plan released earlier this month, Georgia will be required to take action by reducing carbon emissions from power plants by 25 percent over the next 15 years.
That’s a considerably more modest target than state leaders had feared, but the reaction to it has been predictable: Such a reduction can’t be accomplished, opponents claim, or if it can be done, it will come at enormous cost to electricity customers and the economy.
To quote Perdue again, “The damaging effects of this hostile executive action will drive up energy prices for Georgia families and businesses, while the ripple effect throughout our economy will increase costs of basic necessities for those already struggling to make ends meet.”