Climate Change in Atlanta, GA

This page is about the changing climate and great energy transition in Atlanta, Georgia.

1.0 How the Climate is changing in Atlanta

2.0 Atlanta’s inequitable heat islands

3.0 Climate Leadership in Atlanta

4.0 Atlanta’s climate plans, policies, projects

5.0 The carbon monsters of Atlanta

6.0 Atlanta’s Faith Community + Climate

7.0 Recent Climate Strikes in Atlanta

8.0 Climate orgs in Atlanta

9.0 Politicians from Atlanta on the Climate

10.0 Atlanta’s Progress on the Energy Transition

1.0 How the climate is changing in Atlanta

A grumpy elected official in Georgia holds a snowball up to reporters. He feigns wonderment at how it could be snowing if there’s global warming. But really, why do we still get snow in Atlanta?

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Winters in Atlanta are getting less cold, and what used to be snow is coming down more as rain. Atlantans should keep in mind that the winter jet stream will sometimes still dip this far south. Atlanta will sometimes still get some chilly days and snow. Expect these chilly times to happen less often though, in upcoming years and decades.

Current: Q4 2022

statesatrisk.org/georgia/all

So despite an occasional severe cold snap, wintertime in Atlanta is warming up. There’s already been less snow and more cold rain over the past 30 years.

Every 10 years, we get a “new normal” on Atlantas’s average temps, based on the most recent 30-year climatological period.

All months of the year are bringing higher high temperatures to Atlanta. You can see December and January high temps have climbing faster than summer temperatures. Meteorologists note that these monthly high-temp ranges will keep rising, so the super-hot days of summer will be even hotter.

Atlanta’s climate is moving. To get an idea of what the climate will be like in Atlanta several decades from now, climate researchers averaged the results of 27 computer climate models. Atlanta’s changed climate in the 2060s will feel like the warmer and wetter climate of Mobile, Alabama in the 2020s. The current summer in Mobile is 3°F warmer and 50% wetter than summer in Atlanta.

Summers in Atlanta have been getting muggier as the dewpoint temperature rises.

Current: Q4 2022

Climate Central, States at Risk: Georgia, 2022 statesatrisk.org/georgia/all

David Horsey, “Atlanta’s always a bit nippy this time of year” political cartoon, 2014. seattlepi.com

11alive.com/article/weather/stormtracker/noaa-climate-normals-show-a-warmer-atlanta/85-b147dfbe-2282-4b54-b12e-ad3ddab103c4

fitzlab.shinyapps.io/cityapp/

2.0 Some parts of Atlanta’s heat island are hotter than others

Documenting the temperature inequities in “Hotlanta”: Brionna Findley is a volunteer for NOAA’s Urban Heat Island campaign. She measured temps all over Atlanta in the Summer of 2021, including building surfaces, pavement, cars, soil, and vegetation. What Findley found was surprising…

Atlanta neighborhoods located right next to each other can differ in warmth by as much as 20˚F. The City and property owners can cool these overheated parts of town with more plant life, green rooftops, and surfaces that absorbs less heat.

Current: Q4 2022

Brink, D. C. V. D. A. H. M. (2021, October 3). Urban heat islands in Atlanta highlight areas impacted by redlining.

edition.cnn.com/2021/09/18/weather/extreme-urban-heat-environmental-racism-climate/index.html

3.0 Climate Leadership in Atlanta

There’s new energy in Atlanta’s City Hall

Andre Dickens became Atlanta’s new mayor in January 2022. His familiarity with science could be a great help in speeding up Atlanta’s Great Energy Transition. During his 2021 mayoral campaign, Dickens said “As a chemical engineer, I can say climate change is a decades-long pandemic that we must meet and master today or we will suffer through endless tomorrows.

The mayor’s “Mitigate and Adapt” approach calls for a bulk-purchasing program for solar equipment, and zoning codes that incorporate existing tree canopy into new developments.

Current: Q4 2022

Andreforatlanta.com/environmental-clean-energy/

Patrick Semansky/AP Photo

4.0 City of Atlanta’s climate plans, policies and projects

City leaders came up with a City of Atlanta Climate Action Plan way back in 2015, which would reduce emissions across the community 40% by 2030 and 80% by 2050 (below 2009 levels). It’s worth noting that many big cities in the U.S. are aiming for “net zero,” a 99% reduction in emissions by 2050, with small exceptions.

Atlanta’s Climate Action Plan has two big solar energy elements to it: The City of Atlanta Solar Municipal Project is part of the City’s plan to convert all municipal operations to clean energy by 2025. In the Solar Atlanta Program, commercial and residential property owners can finance rooftop solar installations without having to shoulder the costs upfront.

Current: Q4 2022

Williams, D. City of Atlanta launches rooftop solar initiative, Atlanta Business Chronicle, Apr 23, 2018 bizjournals.com/atlanta/news/2018/04/23/city-of-atlanta-launches-rooftop-solar-initiative.html

sgrlaw.com/city-of-atlanta-taps-cherry-street-to-launch-clean-energy-program/

5.0 Carbon Monsters of Atlanta

Georgia Power’s “Plant Scherer” is one of several coal-fire power plants serving the Atlanta metro area. It puts over 20 million tons of CO2 in the atmosphere each year. One quarter of the coal plant will be shut down in 2025, but there’s’ no shut down date set for the rest of the monster-size climate changer. Georgia Power does say it will eventually reach net zero carbon emissions.

Current: Q4 2022

eenews.net/articles/nations-3rd-largest-utility-to-shut-down-half-of-coal-fleet/.

6.0 Atlanta ‘s Faith Community + Climate Change

The historic Ebenezer Baptist Church held its first climate change event way back in 2013. Iconic civil rights leader John Lewis gave the keynote address, and U.S. CDC and EPA officials spoke. Atlanta Falcons fullback Ovie Mughelli shared his wisdom about the changing local climate. Nearly a decade has passed and there’s been a long string of record hot years, climate disasters, and weak international agreements. Perhaps it’s time to organize a new event?

Current: Q4 2022

facebook.com/Call-to-Action-on-Climate-Change-567495779974095/

Jewish Climate Action Network of Georgia represents several congregations throughout the state, and includes spiritual leaders, business owners, and climate scientists. JCAN-GA is organized by Georgia Interfaith Power & Light’s Joanna Kobylivker (Joanna@gipl.org)

Current: Q4 2022

Georgia Interfaith Power & Light – gipl.org/jcan-ga/

Rabbi Shuval-Weiner of Temple Beth Tikvah in Atlanta says, “When we do not respect and care for our earth, we diminish God’s presence in the world… As rabbi I feel that it is my religious duty to raise awareness of our Jewish imperative of bal tashchit (do not destroy) in a more earnest and urgent manner… “

Current: Q4 2022

atlantajewishtimes.com/500-rabbis-fight-climate-change/

Georgia Interfaith Power & Light has its Solar Wise program, where congregations and religious schools get help procuring solar energy systems. The goal is to have hundreds of houses of worship emitting almost no carbon by 2035.

Current: Q4 2022

blog.drawdownga.org/inspiration-for-congregations-taking-action-on-climate

gipl.org/solar-wise/

7.0 Recent Atlanta Climate Strikes

These North Atlanta High Schoolers (800+ of them) went on strike from classes on September 26, 2019. School administrators were supportive of the students “ditching” class. If motorists around the school learned anything that day, it’s that Planet B is not a thing.

Current: Q4 2022

thewarriorwire.org/6527/news/students-walk-out-in-opposition-of-climate-change/#modal-photo

In Atlanta, climate strikes aren’t just for kids anymore. This 2019 Streets of Atlanta climate strike included youth, their parents and neighbors. The messages of this strike were directed at the Atlanta city council, and slow-moving politicians in general. Of course the pandemic has brought a big gap in strike events, but late 2022 may see some on-the-street activity.

Current: Q4 2022

streetsofatlanta.blog/2019/12/10/atlanta-youth-demand-politicians-stop-fiddling-while-the-earth-burns-and-take-action-on-climate-change/

At its pre-pandemic rally in 2019, Atlanta’s Youth Climate Strike says the City of Atlanta announced its commitment to 100% clean energy in 2015, but there’s been minimal action up to the 2019. Climate striker Jon Ossoff wanted the public to know that “Our elected officials are bought and paid for by the fossil fuel industry.” Organizer Hannah Testa called on the crowd to vote only for elected officials who would take action on the climate crisis. 

Current: Q4 2022

Rhone, N. Hundreds gather at Georgia Capitol to demand immediate climate action, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Sept 20, 2019 ajc.com/news/hundreds-gather-georgia-capitol-demand-immediate-climate-action/ Photo: Kelly Jordan, Saporta.com Report September 17, 2020

8.0 Climate Organizations in Atlanta

Extinction Rebellion (XR) Atlanta group pressed someone’s buttons at the May 29, 2019 Atlanta City Council Meeting. In this photo, a city councilor tries to argue with a maddeningly logical climate hooligan. Extinction Rebellion Atlanta says the City is failing to act sufficiently on its Climate Action Plan. XR Atlanta disrupts climate-oblivious businesses and governments through sustained civil disobedience.

Current: Q4 2022

npr.org/2019/05/29/724985884/cities-are-making-big-climate-promises-keeping-them-can-be-tough & xratlanta.org

The Georgia Climate Project and Georgia Clinicians for Climate Action held a webposium in April 2021 addressing “the greatest health challenge of our time.” Attended by hospital leaders, medical pros and students, the webinar focused on how to be ready for heat wave emergencies and how to prevent massive numbers of heat deaths.

Current: Q4 2022

georgiaclimateproject.org/updates/nejm-climate-symposium/.

9.0 Politicians from Atlanta + Climate Change

As of 2021, Ebenezer Baptist Church Minister Raphael Warnock is Georgia’s new junior U.S. Senator. Warnock’s critics say he’s a “religious militant who hates puppies,” but he does believe that “the Earth is the Lord’s.” In Georgia, where only a slim majority of people accept the reality of climate change, Senator Warnock wants to prepare Georgia’s coastline for rising sea levels and train Georgians for jobs in the clean energy economy. 

Current: Q4 2022

grist.org/politics/what-the-georgia-senate-candidates-think-about-climate-change/

warnockforgeorgia.com/issues/climate/

AP Photo/Brynn Anderson

Atlanta resident Jon Ossoff said he wants Georgia to become “the leading producer of renewable energy in the American Southeast.” That was in 2020, at the Atlanta Press Club. Newly elected in 2021, U.S. Senator Jon Ossoff s sees major infrastructure projects as a way to fund clean energy and jobs in Georgia’s growing clean energy sector. Ossoff says locally-controversial climate policies like carbon taxes or clean energy standards may be what’s needed to cut carbon emissions quickly.

Current: Q4 2022

grist.org/politics/what-the-georgia-senate-candidates-think-about-climate-change/

politico.com/news/2021/06/01/jon-ossoff-climate-change-491505

photo: Doug Mills/The New York Times

10.0 Atlanta’s Progress on the Great Energy Transition

This is the future of buildings in Atlanta: Georgia Tech’s “Living Building” makes all the electricity the facility needs – on site. No need to hook up with Georgia Power for coal-fired electricity. That means several tons of carbon emissions won’t be dumped in the atmosphere each year. This building is completely off grid for all its utilities.

Current: Q4 2022

Green, J. (2019, November 14). Georgia Tech’s Living Building, the Southeast’s greenest, is a marvel of efficiency, spare parts. Curbed Atlanta. https://atlanta.curbed.com/atlanta-photo-essays/2019/11/14/20954173/ georgia-tech-atlanta-living-building-green-sustainability

The biggest solar power plant serving metro Atlanta is the downstate Snipesville Solar Project. Snipesville makes enough electricity to power 38,000 homes, and replaces nearly 72,000 tons of CO2 each year.

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Biking with Dope Peddlers This popular bicycle rental company in Atlanta is getting local residents hooked on human powered transportation. With dozens of bike rentals every day, Dope Peddlers is helping cut Atlanta’s share of the world’s carbon emissions.

Current: Q4 2022

stories.georgiaclimateproject.org/climate-on-our-minds-biking-with-dope-pedalers