UN Climate summit may impact the future of the Big Bend, South Georgia

Any policy agreements in Glasgow may determine how the Big Bend and South Georgia are impacted by climate change.
Published: Nov. 1, 2021 at 7:15 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - World leaders converged in Glasgow, Scotland on Monday to begin the U.N.-sponsored COP26 climate summit with an effort to not only come up with additional solutions to fighting human-induced climate change, but also build on the goals set by the climate accord made in Paris in 2015. The goal was to limit the Earth’s warming to less than 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit (1.5 degrees Celsius).

But what happens in Glasgow through Nov. 12 may not stay in Glasgow and could impact the future climate of the Big Bend and South Georgia. For as long as carbon emissions increase on the planet, the average global temperature will continue to increase. That includes the Southeast U.S.

The average temperature in Tallahassee has increased by over 3 degrees since 1970 according to data obtained by Climate Central. Unless emissions are curbed quickly, the temperature will continue to increase.

The graph of data, obtained by Climate Central, show the increase in the average temperature in...
The graph of data, obtained by Climate Central, show the increase in the average temperature in Tallahassee, Fla, but also future temperature projections with a "business-as-usual" emissions scenario.(Climate Central)

For cities, including Tallahassee, the increase in temperature will also mean the urban heat island will continue to increase more so for urban centers than locations in the suburbs or rural areas. Those warmer temperatures will have an impact on utility usage that would strain low-income households as well as further increase the use of carbon fuels in locations that use them for electricity generation.

Overnight lows have increased over the years, according to climate data. The Tallahassee summers have seen the overnight lows increase by nearly 4 degrees - approaching a degree more than just the average temperature - according to data from Climate Central. The increase would impact the air conditioning usage at night in the city and rural areas. Projections keep the increase going in the future with how much higher depending on how much more carbon emissions are released.

Minimum (low) temperatures have increased in the Southeast in 2020 compared to the 30-year...
Minimum (low) temperatures have increased in the Southeast in 2020 compared to the 30-year average, according to NOAA.(NOAA)

Rainfall amounts are forecast to increase in the future autumns under the “worst-case,” no-adjustments scenario according to a IPCC report released in August. That’s on top of the expectation of tropical cyclones producing more rainfall in a warming world.

Sea surface temperatures are also forecast to increase in the Gulf of Mexico, according to the latest IPCC report. This would likely increase the odds of observing Category 4 and 5 hurricanes, with warmer waters increasing the available fuel for strengthening. The added storm strength would increase the flooding and damage risk to storm-impacted areas.

The cumulative damage from climate change can impact wallets, too. Local industries such as salt-water oysters wouldn’t be the only on at risk, but factors such as “agriculture, crime, coastal storms, energy, human mortality, and labor,” according to a 2017 study. The researchers found that projected economic damage would reach as much as 15% of gross domestic product in many eastern Big Bend counties by the end of the century.

By the late 21st century, if emissions of heat-trapping gases continue increasing, most...
By the late 21st century, if emissions of heat-trapping gases continue increasing, most Southeast counties are projected to experience economic damages from climate change. Colors show annual economic damages projected for 2080–2099 under RCP8.5, expressed as a percentage of gross domestic product for each county in the Southeast. Data from Hsiang, Kopp, Jina, Rising, et al. (2017).(NOAA via Hsiang, et al.)

Whatever decisions are made in Glasgow could have a lasting impact on the climate and economic future of the area.

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