Current Climate Change And Its Impact on the Gulf Coast of Alabama

The Gulf Coast of Alabama is currently facing multiple negative consequences of climate change in big and small ways. According to the National Weather Service Heat Index, Alabama has an average of 25 days per year that are classified as dangerous or extremely dangerous. Dr. Chandana Mitra, a physical geographer and climatologist focused on the impacts of climate change on the urban environment, shared with me that seal-level rise has increased by 11 inches around Dauphin Island in Mobile, Alabama, and that’s primarily due to land subsidence.

If things continue as they are, it looks like things will significantly worsen. A report from the Environmental Protection Agency reveals that Alabama is on track to have an increase in its number of hot days, rainfall, droughts, and sea level rise in the next few decades

Dr. Mitra shared, “One major concern for Alabamians safety is an increase in the heat index, a combination of air temperature and humidity, with a heat index above 90 degrees being considered dangerous. The outdoor workers, the farmers and the athletes, who have to spend hours out in the sun during the hot summer months, are constantly in danger of falling sick due to excessive heat.”

“The state of Alabama, with its growing population and susceptibility to extreme weather events like hurricanes, flooding, tornadoes, and heat waves, needs a thorough assessment, communication, and implementation of urban integrated services. One extreme weather event can bring the population to a standstill; it can have a cascading or domino effect on the normal functioning of life for the Alabamians,” she continued.

Another thing to consider is that Alabama has more than 160,000 people who are under 5 years of age or over 65 years of age who live below the poverty line. These people are especially vulnerable to extreme heat, reported the EPA.

So, what can be done? There are everyday steps one can do to protect themselves and benefit the environment. The old advice of “reduce, reuse, and recycle” is still important. When possible, cut back on consumption. When you can’t, try to reuse or recycle what you buy.

Also, the International Panel on Climate Change and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization have acknowledged the need to shift to a plant-based diet. Choosing to eat more plant-based foods or going completely vegan is one proactive step one can take to help with climate change. The production of plant-based foods causes vastly fewer greenhouse gas emissions. Some studies indicate that a vegan diet can leave a carbon footprint that is as much as 60 percent smaller than a meat-based diet.

Dr. Chandana Mitra advised, “People of Alabama should prepare themselves to be more resilient to extreme weather events and climate change. Keeping up to speed with what changes are occurring around you is important. Being proactive before a weather-related incident occurs should be the priority for the authorities.”

“The most important thing which we can do is educate Alabamians, make them aware of the changes and what adaptations and mitigation techniques they should implement to ameliorate the impact of climate change in Alabama. Communicating science through easy-to-understand techniques is important,” she cautioned.