Georgia IS the largest state east of the Mississippi River. Because the economy is heavily dependent on manufacturing and agriculture, the state is involved in activities that are known to negatively affect global warming and climate change. With a population increase of 29 percent 1990-2001, Georgia's carbon dioxide emissions rose by 16 percent. As a result, Georgia ranks 11th in the nation in CO2 emissions. Overall, global warming pollution in Georgia increased 26 percent 1990-2004. Georgia ranks second in the nation in pollution produced from electric power plants because of eight coal-fired plants built before the concept of global warming was understood. Because Georgians recognize the threat that global warming and climate change pose to health, the environment, and financial prosperity, the government has joined with nongovernmental organizations and the business community to establish programs that focus on energy, agriculture, forestry, transportation, and waste management. The state is under intensive pressure to force power companies to replace the polluting facilities and develop alternative energy sources.
The Georgia Environmental Facilities Authority (GAFA) and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources share major responsibility for managing Georgia's responses to global warming and climate change. Other entities involved include the Department of Agriculture, the Forestry Commission, and the Soil and Water Conservation Commission. GAFA works with county and city governments, other state agencies, and private organizations to promote responsible environmental practices. The Environmental Protection Division (EPD) of the Department of Natural Resources administers 26 state environmental laws and works with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to implement four federal laws. EPD has the authority to impose fines and shut down facilities that are not in compliance. Various divisions within EPD have direct responsibility for meeting established standards. For example, the Fuel Storage Division monitors the maintenance of fuel tanks. In 1991, Georgia created the 15-member Governor's Environmental Advisory Council to evaluate the effectiveness of the state's environmental programs and make suggestions for improvement.
Atlanta is the state capital and the center of population and industry. Composed of 13 counties, metropolitan Atlanta ranks ninth in population among American metropolitan areas. The vast majority of the people who work in Atlanta commute from other areas, presenting major pollution problems. The Hartsville-Jackson International Airport is the busiest passenger airport in the world, increasing levels of toxic emissions in the Atlanta area. Special attention is paid to eastern Georgia, which borders the Atlantic Ocean. Global warming poses a major threat to this area because of rising sea levels, potential coastal erosion, and loss of wetlands. If coastal marshes are destroyed by salt-water intrusion, the fishing industry would suffer, and the habitat for ocean life and wintering waterfowl would be greatly compromised. Controlling global warming and climate change is also essential to protecting the ecosystems of the 328 species of birds, 92 species of mammals, 83 species of reptiles, 250 species of fish, and the 77 species of amphibians that are found in Georgia. The state's forests are at particular risk from rising temperatures, which increase the threat of massive fires such as those that spread from South Georgia to Florida in 2007. Smoke from those fires blanketed much of the state, creating health and environmental problems.
In order to deal with the ongoing problem of reducing global warming and climate change, Georgians have instituted a number of programs. The Georgia Weatherization Program, for instance, provides assistance to low-income people, with preference given to the elderly, the disabled, and families with children, to make their homes more energy efficient. The program has served nearly 8 million homes since it was created in 1976, reducing CO2 emissions approximately one metric ton per home served.
In response to high pollution levels of ozone and particulate matter in Georgia, the state has passed strict vehicle emissions standards for residents of the metropolitan Atlanta area. To encourage carpooling, vehicles carrying multiple passengers are allowed to drive in High Vehicle Occupancy lanes on downtown sections of Interstates 85, 75, and 20. Plans to extend areas covered by the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authorit (MARTA), Atlanta's mass transportation system, are generally viewed as one of the most effective ways of reducing metropolitan pollution. Metropolitan Atlanta leads the nation in the number of vehicle miles traveled daily, with a yearly average of more than 40 billion miles each year. Particularly during hot, humid summers, air quality has, at times, been so poor that the state has been in danger of losing federal construction funds. The smog that blankets the city during periods of heavy pollution is a major health and environmental concern.
Since 1996, the Clean Air Campaign, a nonprofit organization comprised of more than 70 groups, has been involved in raising public awareness and in exerting pressure on state and local legislators to improve air quality in the Atlanta area. Program officials work closely with the Department of Natural Resources and the Department of Transportation. Activities are largely funded through Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality grants and matching state and corporate funds. Efforts to reduce pollution in the metro area include work ing with the public and businesses to promote the free Ride-Matching program and encouraging telecommuting, walking, biking, and riding MARTA. The success of the Clean Air Campaign is documented by significant reductions in nitrogen oxide and CO2 emission levels, traffic congestion, and fuel consumption.
The State of Georgia offers tax relief to companies that institute emission-reducing programs such as the Advanced Travel Center Electrification (ATE) program, which was established to provide long-haul truckers with an alternative to the practice of idling trucks while drivers rest, releasing tons of CO2 and pounds of NOx and CO2 into the air each year and wasting valuable fuel. ATE offers an external system, which can be mounted on the truck to provide heat, air, power, internet access, television, and phone services while the truck is turned off. Revenues from the program are shared between ATE designer, IdleAire Technologies Corporation, and parking space property owners. The Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Program offers some funding for the ATE system, and the state matches 20 percent of project costs.
Farming is the largest industry in Georgia. By cutting down on the use of fuel-consuming equipment, Georgia's No-Tillage Assistance Program (NTAP) works with the agricultural sector to reduce global warming. NTAP offers funding for leasing no-till equipment such as energy-efficient terrace plows, drills with small seed attachments and acreage meters, tractors and trailers that work with these plows and drills, row crop planters, hydro-seeders, and sprig spreaders. The Resource Conservation and Development Council maintains the equipment at branches throughout the state. GEFA and RC&D bear most of the cost, but farmers pay a small rental fee. More affluent farmers have purchased their own equipment. Official estimates suggest that Georgia has saved almost 3 million gallons of fuel since the program started in 1987, reducing CO2, NOx, and CO emissions by tens of thousands of tons.
SEE ALSO: Agriculture; Atlantic Ocean; Energy; Florida; Transportation.
BIBLIOGRAPHY. Environment Georgia, www.environment-georgia.org (cited November 2007); Georgia Environmental Facilities Authority, www.gefa.georgia.gov (cited November 2007); Georgia Environmental Protection Divi sion, www.gaepd.org (cited November 2007); B.G. Rade, Report: Greenhouse and Statehouse: The Evolving State Government Role in Climate Change (Pew Center, 2002).
Elizabeth R. Purdy Independent Scholar
Was this article helpful?