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Georgia needs better research and resources to deal with changes in climate, new report says

State, county and municipal leaders have a lot of work to do to better prepare Georgia and mitigate the ongoing environmental impact of changes to its shores, agriculture and the health of its citizens, according to a study released Wednesday.

The team, called the Georgia Climate Project, began its work last year and focused on what it considered 40 important research questions as the state experiences more droughts, heat waves, erosion, flooding and stronger hurricanes.

It was founded by researchers from Emory University, Georgia Tech and the University of Georgia, and included support from public agencies and local businesses.

“We see this as a really important first step,” study co-author Patricia Yager of the University of Georgia said in a news release. “Now that we have outlined these questions, we hope to see researchers across the state digging into these in much more detail.”

The researchers also fear as Georgia becomes more urbanized, those changes may have an adverse impact on the state’s farmlands, wetlands and forests and some species migrating to cooler waters.

The researchers suggested:

  • a statewide repository is needed to report information about water supply and use and such collaborative work could result in not overspending on projects
  • enhancing the capability of local health departments to respond to climate-related health events will be critical
  • better long-term greenhouse gas emissions reduction strategies
  • the management of the state’s ecosystems could be funded through tax incentives, land purchases and other methods

The debate over climate change has divided many along political lines, as some conservatives have expressed skepticism over its existence. President Donald Trump removed climate change from the National Security Strategy’s list of global threats. The research team, though, cited 2016 polling that found about two-thirds of Georgians believe global warming was occurring and half of Georgians believe it was caused by human activity.

“Responding to climate change at the state level will involve a variety of actions and strategies that include mitigation and adaptation,” the report said.

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