Friday, October 2, 2009

Climate Change and The Southeast

Peter Marsh
President, EcoLens Group 10/2/09

The following is a summary of research specific to the effects of climate change on the Southeastern United States. Economic impacts of climate change will occur across the United States, but with uneven distribution by region, within the economy and within society. Negative impacts will outweigh the positive for most sectors that provide essential goods and services. Climate change will place tremendous pressure on public sector budgets.

The Southeast states – Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North and South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and the Gulf Coast of Texas – may be some of the hardest hit by climate change in the US.

Having undergone rapid population growth during the 1970s-1990s (30%), the region is expected to continue growing, perhaps another 40% between 2000 and 2025. This growth has come in spite of economic transition from legacy industries including textiles, furniture manufacturing, and tobacco as well as shifts from global economic transitions.

Employment sectors fueling regional growth include financial services, higher education, advanced manufacturing, logistics, tourism, healthcare, retirement and senior living.

By value, the region produces about one quarter of US agricultural products; half of US timber supplies; and much of the nation’s fish, poultry, tobacco oil, coal and natural gas (Burkett et al. 2001). As such, the state economies are intricately tied to the condition of their natural resources.

The climate in the Southeast has gone through a warm period during the 1920s-40s, a cool period from 1950-1960, and is presently in another warm period that began in the 1970s.

There has been a 20-30% increase in precipitation over the last 100 years. The Canadian Climate Centre (CCC) model scenarios show continued warming through the 2090s, whereas the Hadley Centre model scenarios project less warming (Burkett et al. 2001) and about a 20% increase in precipitation throughout the region by 2100. Both models predict an increase in the heat index greater in the Southeast than in other US regions, 8-15ºF (4.5ºC-8.4ºC) or more (Burkett et al. 2001).

With warmer weather and warmer water in the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico, the region may experience an increased frequency and intensity of storms, sea-level rise, and the loss of important agricultural areas, crops and timber species.

Potential Impacts and Strategy Considerations
Increased Frequency and Intensity of
Major Weather Events

Pressure on infrastructure, increased repair and maintenance costs
Disruption of transportation and energy supplies
Impact on industrial and service sector productivity
Increased construction costs
Increase insurance / risk management costs
Burden on Federal, State and Local governmental budgets
Impact on water quality
Costal salination of potable aquifers
Impacts on agricultural and forest products
Ecosystem disruptions

Increase in Temperature

Significant increase in electricity consumption to cool the built environment
Change in design standards
Increase in refrigerant use, distribution and storage
Increase in ozone and smog
Human and animal health risk and productivity impact from heat waves
Urban heat island effect compounding anomalous highs
Change in precipitation trends and humidity levels
Increase in forest fire risk and severity
Increase in incidence, duration and severity of drought
Change in agricultural strategy / crop tolerance
Change and adaptation of forest ecosystems
Increase in pests and diseases / weakened ecosystem

Water Quantity and Quality

Decrease in potable water quantity and quality
Prolonged periods of severe drought
Decrease in groundwater saturation and flow rates in major tributaries
Limitations on development based on water system capacities
Increased state and county regulation of water use
Impact on hydroelectric and nuclear power generation
Decrease in steady rainfalls, increase in rapid high volume events
Impact of deforestation and development on
groundwater absorption rates
Increase in flood and storm-water management design standards

Air Quality

Increased CO2 emissions from coal power plants
Increased ozone levels from heat and pollution
Health and productivity loss from respiratory impacts
Restrictions on development to meet EPA standards
Impact of pending governmental regulations on GHG emissions
Impact on tourism and senior living industries
Impact on agriculture and forests


Beck, Coby. “Be the Change.” Carbon Planet. Issue 6 October/November 2007.

Brookhaven National Laboratory. “Florida Tower Footprint Experiments.” Environmental Sciences Department Environmental Research and Technology Division. April 2007.

Cazorla, Marina. Toman, Michael. “International Equirt and Climate Change Policy.” Resources for the Future. December 2000 Climate Issue Brief No. 27.

Center for Clean Air. “Manager of Adaptation.” The Center for Clean Air Policy.

Clark, James S. Dietze, Michael C. Feeley, Ken. Hersh, Michelle. Ibanez, Ines. LaDeau, Shannon. McBride, Allen. Welch, Nathan E. Wolosin, Michael S. “Predicting Biodiversity Change: Outside the Climate Envelope, Beyond the Species-Area Curve.” Ecological Society of America. 2006.

Dai, Aiguo. Kunkel, Kenneth E. Liang, Xin-Zhong. Pan, Jianping. Wang, Julian X.L. Zhu, Jinhong. “Regional Climate Model Downscaling of the U.S. Summer Climate and Future Change.” Journal of Geophysical research, Vol. 111, D10108. 31 May 2006.

Dai, Aiguo. Kunkel, Kenneth E. Liang, Xin-Zhong. Li, Li. “Regional Climate Model Simulation of Summer Precipitation Diurnal Cycle Over the United States.” Geophysical Research Letters, Vol. 31, L24208. 23 December 2004.

Field, B.D. Jacob, D.J. Mickley, L.J. “Effects of Future Climate Change on Regional Air Pollution Episodes in the United States.” Geophysical Research Letters, Vol. 31, L24103. 28 December 2004.

Heilman, Warren E. Potter, Brian E. Zerbe, John I. “Regional Climate Change in the Southern united States: The Implications for Wildfire Occurrence.” Springer-Verlag. 1998.

Hoffman, Andrew J. “Getting Ahead of the Curve: Corporate Strategies That Incorporate Climate Change.” The University of Michigan. October 2006.

IBM. “Mastering Carbon Management.” IBM Institute for Business Value.” Supply Chain Management. IBM Corporation 2008.

Jenkins, Jennifer. Nemani, Ramakrishna. Nishida, Kenlo. Reddy, Swarna. Running, Steven. Thornton, Peter. White, Michael. “Recent Trends in Hydrologic Balance Have Enhanced the Terrestrial Carbon Sink in the United States.” Geophysical Research Letters, Vol. 29. 28 May 2002.

McKinsey & Company. “The Carbon Productivity Challenge: Curbing Climate Change and Sustaining Economic Growth.” McKinsey Global Institute.

Moreau, David H. “What are the Experts Saying about Effects of Climate Change on Rainfall and Stream flow in the Southeast?” Water Resources Research Institute of the University of North Carolina. July 2007.

Pew Center. “Adaptation Planning – What U.S. States and Localities are Doing.”

Pew Center. “Economy-Wide Cap-and-Trade Proposals in the 110th Congress.”

Randall, Doug. Schwartz, Peter. “An Abrupt Climate Change Scenario and Its Implications for United States National Security.” October 2003.

Roach, John. “In U.S., Climate Change May Hit Southeast Hardest.” National Geographic News. 11 August 2005.

Ruth, Lawrence W. Stephens, Scott L. “Federal Forest-Fire Policy in the United States.” Ecological Society of America. 2005.

Schmid, H.P. “Matching Carbon Exchange Products from Modis to Flux Towers: Are we Comparing Apples with Apples?” Geophysical Research Abstracts. Vol. 6, 06604, 2004.

Srivastave, Leena. “Reducing the World’s Carbon Footprint: An Indian Perspective.”

Strategic Director, Neighborhood Services.” The Principles of Tackling Climate Change in Manchester.” Manchester City Council. 5th February, 2008.

Sussman, Frances G. “Adapting to Change: A Business Approach.” Pew Center. April 2008

The Center for Integrative Environmental Research. “The US Economic Impacts of Climate Change and the Costs of Inaction.” The University of Maryland. October 2007.

Titus, James G. “The Potential Effects of Global Climate Change on the United States.” U.S. EPA Office of Policy, Planning, and Evaluation. December 1989.

USDA Forest Service. “Vulnerability of the Southeastern United States to Climate Change.” Southern Global Change Program. 6 July 2008.

UNDP. “Developed countries must cut emissions, invest in adaptation to prevent human development reversals.” 27 November 2007.

UNDP “US must climate-proof growth to prevent human development reversals.” 27 November 2007.

USGC. “Effects of Climate Change on Southeastern Forests.” U.S. Dept. of the Interior. U.S. Geological Survey. June 1997

U.S. Government Accountability Office. “Climate Change: Expert Opinion on the Economics of Policy Options to Address Climate Change.” GAO. May 2008.

Wilson, Angene. “Adaptation to Global Climate Change.” National Peace Corps Association. Volume 21, Number 22. Summer 2008

World Heath Organization. “Reducing the Carbon Footprint of the Health Sector.” 20 January 2008.

No comments:

Post a Comment