Caught Off Guard: The Southeast Struggles with Climate Change

Reporters from Southeastern newsrooms hold leaders in their communities accountable for reducing emissions and preparing for climate change-related emergencies.

Like hundreds of other cities, Louisville, Kentucky, is searching for a path to address climate change.

To get there, however, city officials need the cooperation of the region's electric utility, Louisville Gas and Electric Co., which depends on coal and still sees coal as a future option.

In a collaborative project organized by InsideClimate News, reporters across the Southeast are publishing stories on the progress and problems their communities face related to climate change. The journalists found communities struggling with funding or a lack of political will, and an urgent need for technological breakthroughs to meet global warming head-on.

Read their work below, including:

 


 

Hurricane Florence flooded out a contaminated Superfund site Cheraw, South Carolina. Credit: The State.

Hurricane Florence flooded out a contaminated Superfund site in Cheraw, South Carolina. Credit: The State.

As Climate Change Hits the Southeast, Communities Wrestle with Politics, Funding

By James Bruggers, InsideClimate News

As its population grows, the Southeast faces some of the biggest global warming threats in the United States. It's having a hard time rising to that challenge.

READ THE STORY.

 


 

Homes along a sand spit of land on Litchfield Beach, South Carolina. Credit: Jason Lee, McClatchy newspapers

This narrow sand spit of land at Litchfield Beach along the South Carolina was undeveloped when Hurricane Hugo hit 1989. Homes have been built there since the devastating storm, despite rising sea levels and evidence of more intense storms. This is what it looked like in the fall of 2019. Credit: Jason Lee, McClatchy newspapers

South Carolina Has No Overall Plan to Fight Climate Change, Despite Years of Study

By Sammy Fretwell, The State (Charleston, SC)

Four hurricanes and a major flood in the past five years have swamped South Carolina, killing more than 30 people, pushing toxic chemicals into people's yards and causing billions of dollars in property damage. But South Carolina has no comprehensive climate plan, which means there is no coordinated effort to cut greenhouse gas pollution, limit sprawl, develop wind energy or educate the public on how to adapt to the changing climate.

READ THE STORY.

 


 

Clendenin, West Virginia was one of the communities hit hard by the 2016 floods. In some places, more than 10 inches of rain fell over the course of 12 to 18 hours. The National Weather Service later said the intensity of the rainfall event is something expected once in 1,000 years. Credit: Kara Lofton/West Virginia Public Broadcasting.

West Virginia Created a Resilience Office in 2016. It's Barely Functioning

By Brittany Patterson, Ohio Valley ReSource/West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Mountainous West Virginia is among the most flood prone states in the nation. Yet in that coal state, it's hard to even have discussions about how climate change is adding to flooding risk, let alone make meaningful policy changes that respond to those risks.

READ THE STORY.

 


 

Solar panels in Orlando, Florida. Credit: Amy Green, WFME

Orlando has plans to ramp up solar power in the coming years, adding to these at a city-owned installation. Credit: Amy Green, WFME

Orlando Aims High With Emissions Cuts, Despite Uncertain Path

By Amy Green, WMFE (Orlando, FL)

Orlando is among fewer than a dozen local governments in Florida working to curb their greenhouse gas emissions. With its municipal utility, Orlando Utilities Commission, it plans to generate as much as 13 percent of its electricity from solar power within five years. Still, the utility has two large coal burning plants and officials are uncertain how Orlando will get to its 100-percent clean energy goal in three decades.

READ THE STORY.

 

 


 

 

High tides and rain can turn streets in Charleston, South Carolina into rivers, a problem that has grown worse because of rising seas. This sunny day flood happened in 2017. Credit: The Post and Courier

High tides and rain can turn streets in Charleston, South Carolina into rivers, a problem that has grown worse because of rising seas. This sunny day flood happened in 2017. Credit: The Post and Courier

In Charleston, Politics and Budgets Impede Cutting Carbon Emissions

By Tony Bartelme and Chloe Johnson, The (Charleston) Post and Courier

Charleston, South Carolina, has begun an array of expensive projects to defend itself, but its record in reducing its carbon footprint is tepid at best. 

READ THE STORY.

 


 

The Georgia Ports Authority's Garden City Terminal in Savannah, Georgia, as seen from the air. Credit: Georgia Ports Authority

The Georgia Ports Authority's Garden City Terminal in Savannah, Georgia, as seen from the air. Credit: Georgia Ports Authority

The Port of Savannah Has Plans for Growth But None For Emissions Goals 

By Emily Jones, Georgia Public Broadcasting

In Savannah, Georgia, authorities are not tracking the greenhouse gas emissions coming from the nation's fourth businesses seaport in the country. Because they don't have to.

READ THE STORY.

 


 

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper. Credit: Sara D. Davis/Getty Images

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper signed an executive order in October 2018, committing his state to fight climate change. Credit: Sara D. Davis/Getty Images

North Carolina's Goal of Slashing Greenhouse Gases Faces Political Reality Test

By David Boraks, WFAE (Charlotte, NC)

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper has a clean energy plan to eliminate his state's carbon emissions from the power sector by mid-century. His Republican legislature seems unlikely to cooperate.

READ THE STORY.

 


 

Julia Nesheiwat is Florida's chief resilience officer. Credit: Brendan River,  WJCT Jacksonville

Julia Nesheiwat is Florida’s chief resilience officer. Credit: Brendan River, WJCT Jacksonville

Jacksonville and Northeast Florida Play Catch-up on Climate Change 

By Brendan Rivers, WJCT (Jacksonville, FL)

Jacksonville, Florida, lags behind when it comes to responding to the threats from climate change. But momentum is shifting, and six people interviewed for this project are helping create the change.

READ THE STORY.

 


 

Hurricane Florence destruction in New Bern, North Carolina. Credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

After the devastation of Hurricane Florence in 2018, small towns along the North Carolina coast are struggling to plan for future resilience. Credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Along the North Carolina Coast, Small Towns Wrestle With Resilience

By Adam Wagner, The (Raleigh) News & Observer

Hammered by hurricanes and confronting rising seas, North Carolina's coastal communities and islands are on the front lines of climate change. Many are small towns without the resources they need to adapt to more flooding and extreme weather.

READ THE STORY.

 


 

U.S. 280 in Birmingham, Alabama. Credit: Sam Prickett/Birmingham Watch

U.S. 280 is one of the main highways in Birmingham, cutting from downtown to the ever-expanding southern suburbs. Providing mass transit down the corridor to reduce emissions has been debated for more than 20 years, with no solution reached. Credit: Sam Prickett/Birmingham Watch

Despite Pledges, Birmingham Lags on Efficiency, Renewables, Sustainability 

By Sam Prickett, BirminghamWatch

Birmingham, Alabama, residents are pushing city leaders to "lead the way in confronting the threat of climate change." But patience is running thin among advocates who want Alabama's largest city to take environmental sustainability seriously.

READ THE STORY.

 


Learn more about the National Environment Reporting Network and read the network's fall project: Unfamiliar Ground: Bracing for Climate Impacts in the American Midwest.

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