Local impacts of climate change in Savannah, GA | Sea Change

Anyone who has paid attention to the news in the last two decades has become familiar with the phrase "climate change." A topic of political and cultural discussion, individuals across the world have had to consider what effects climate change could have on the planet. But what can the southeastern United States expect in impacts?

The SCETV Special Sea Change looks at the current issues facing coastal Georgia, particularly Savannah and Tybee Island, and what these communities can expect and must do, as sea levels continue to rise.

"The climate change issues that a place like Tybee Island are going to face are really no different from the ones they have been facing as long as they've been there," says Matthew Gilligan, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus at Savannah State University. "These barrier islands of sand that move around, once you build roads and houses and infrastructure on them, you tend to want to stabilize that sand dune, and they've done all manner of stabilization over the years: groins, jetty, rip wrap. Pumping sand and renourishment seems to be the main choice now. But this is just an ongoing process. With sea level rise, it's just going to have to continue, and it's going to have to keep up, and the infrastructure on the island is going to have to keep up. The roads are going to have to be raised or a bridge made, if you want to maintain the community and the economy of a vulnerable barrier island."

Experts in Sea Change agree that to create meaningful change moving forward, open dialogue and education are imperative.

"The unfortunate thing is, some people are so set in their ways and some people are so defensive, based on some bias that they have, culturally speaking. There's a cultural limitation or cultural resistance when it comes to accepting reality." says Allen University Associate Professer of Biology, Oluwole Ariyo, Ph.D. "I think the more awareness that is being created, the more eventual possibility of gaining people's attention towards the reality—the fact that there is a change in climate and everyone's a contributing factor towards that."

Another key element to combatting impacts of climate change is to localize its effects by turning the lens to what communities can achieve.

"The issues of climate change are huge. Not only are they huge, but they are complex," explains Mildred McClain, Ed.D., of Citizens for Environmental Justice.

"We have to localize it because if you keep it in its comprehensive, big framework, folks will be overwhelmed and feel as though, 'I can't do anything about that.' But everybody can do something about reducing the carbon footprint, and preparing people to deal with the reality of climate change, which is already with us."

To see the complete program, tune in to Sea Change on SCETV for the premiere, Nov. 15 at 7:00 p.m. Narrator Patrick McMillan takes viewers from the sands of Hunting Island State Park to other communities along the coast, looking at immediate and long-term impacts and the efforts made to withstand nature’s onslaught.