Caught Off Guard: The Southeast Struggles with Climate Change

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:

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.


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.


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.


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.


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. 


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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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