This is what the future looks like.
Over the past few weeks, extreme weather has ripped through Georgia and the South with a severity we haven’t seen in a long time.
South Carolina was hit by torrential rainstorms that are only supposed to happen once every thousand years. Roads were flooded all over the state, dozens of dams burst, and the University of South Carolina was even forced to move a football game against LSU to Baton Rouge.
A few weeks later, “king tides” hit the coastal areas and reached levels that are typically associated with hurricanes.
Tybee Island made history when a 10.5-foot tide swamped much of the island and U.S. 80, the highway that links Tybee to Savannah. It was the third-highest tide ever recorded there, exceeded only by surges in 1940 and 1947 that were caused by hurricanes.
High tides in South Carolina washed away most of the sand from a $30 million renourishment project completed just last year on the eastern end of Folly Beach.
Over in Alabama, according to the Mobile Press-Register, the water coming inland was so high that a homeowner in Fowl River, about 16 miles from Mobile Bay, found a dead shark deposited in her front yard.
“It was crazy,” the homeowner said.
It also illustrated what we can expect to see in the coming years: a lot of extreme weather events that cause a lot of damage.
Sea levels are rising as polar caps, glaciers and ice sheets melt under temperatures that continue to reach record levels. Warmer air also holds more moisture, which means longer and stronger rainstorms like the ones that dumped all that water on southern states.
The consensus among an overwhelming number of scientists is that these extreme weather events and rising sea levels are linked to the effects of global warming and climate change.
You still find many people in elected office, however, who deny that climate change is happening and denounce it as a “liberal hoax.” They oppose all efforts to try to cut down on the emission of greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming.
U.S. Rep. Rick Allen, R-Augusta, said: “I am not convinced and I am certainly not ready to destroy jobs and whole industry sectors in order to tax industries liberals don’t like and send the money to sectors that they do like.”
U.S. Rep. Barry Loudermilk, R-Cassville, said: “Some politicians and bureaucrats believe in whatever theory gives them an opportunity to take money from the energy sector and spend it themselves in the name of saving the planet.”
Gov. Nathan Deal said through a spokesman: “This is more of a national and international policy issue — not one where we should or would weigh in.”
Georgia House Speaker David Ralston said: “Claiming that the debate is over helps advance a particular agenda and disregards the fact that the only provable result of policies proposed as a result is the export of American jobs to countries with abysmal environmental practices.”
The Environment Protection Agency recently implemented clean-air regulations that require coal-burning power plants to reduce the greenhouse gases they emit by the year 2030. This is a small initial step to address the planet-threatening issue of climate change.
This was the response from Georgia officials: Attorney General Sam Olens sued the EPA to try to have the regulation thrown out.
The attitude of denial prevails in our neighboring states as well. Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s administration forbids state employees from using the terms “global warming” or “climate change” in any public statements or reports.
The North Carolina legislature passed a law that prohibits the state from basing its coastal development policies on scientific predictions of how much sea levels will rise. The lawmakers evidently think they can stop the sea from rising by simply passing a law to make it illegal.
King Canute tried something similar a thousand years ago when he commanded the tides not to come in and wet his feet. It didn’t work for him. either.
As the denials from our public officials continue, we will keep getting closer to the day when Tybee Island, Jekyll Island, St. Simons Island — the entire Georgia coast, perhaps — are submerged under water.
Mother Nature tends to ignore political ideologies.
Tom Crawford is editor of The Georgia Report.