– August 9, 2023 –

Good morning. Compared to 40 years ago, Coastal Georgia now experiences about 25 more days annually with temperatures over 90 degrees. That’s why we’re taking a look at how cities and people can adapt to higher temperatures and how hydrogen fuel produced in Camden County could mitigate climate change.

Find a shady spot and a cool drink. Let’s go.

Cooling urban heat islands

You probably know the basics of avoiding heat-related health problems: stay hydrated, seek out air conditioning and check on your vulnerable neighbors. But Emily Jones of WABE/Grist reports you can go a step further and acclimate yourself to heat. “Starting small, with maybe a fifteen-minute walk as the morning starts to heat up and then working your way up to longer exercise, can get the body more used to heat,” said Samantha Scarneo-Miller of West Virginia University, who studies exertional heat illness.

Cities can also make changes that reduce the effect of the urban heat island. Among the most effective are planting trees, particularly along paved streets; installing green roofs with plants to provide shade; installing cool roofs made of more reflective and less heat-absorbing materials that remain cooler than traditional materials; and finally, putting in cool pavements of reflective and/or permeable materials to help reduce surface temperatures.

Savannah's tree-covered squares help cool the city.
Savannah’s tree-covered squares help cool the city.

Here comes hydrogen

Hydrogen fuel is gaining prominence in Georgia, with Plug Power Inc. building a green hydrogen plant in Camden County. Earlier this year, Georgia Tech, U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff and Public Service Commissioner Tim Echols put together the “Georgia Hydrogen Braintrust” to “work with Georgia businesses, public and private partners, energy companies, universities, transportation agencies, and more to make Georgia a national leader in the hydrogen energy space.” Just this week the Georgia Department of Transportation issued a request for information to seek feedback on how best to develop and construct hydrogen fuel stations here.

So what’s the big deal about hydrogen? “As a fuel, it can store energy and reduce emissions from vehicles, including buses and cargo ships,” writes hydrogen researcher Hannes van der Watt in an explanation of the fuel in The Conversation.

Hydrogen burns without producing greenhouse gases. But the fuels used to isolate hydrogen so it can be used as a fuel may or may not be climate friendly. Wind, solar or hydropower produces “green” hydrogen, van der Watt writes. Dirtier fuels, including coal and methane gas, produce a typically cheaper but less climate friendly version — termed turquoise, blue or gray depending on the level of emissions produced.

Hydrogen’s contribution to climate stability ultimately depends on which “color” of hydrogen dominates the growing market.

A hydrogen refueling station in California.
A hydrogen refueling station in California. Credit: California Energy Commission

State names new EPD head

The Board of Natural Resources last week approved Jeff Cown as the director of the Environmental Protection Division, making him the state’s top environmental regulator, as The Current’s Maggie Lee and Mary Landers report.

Cown is a 33-year veteran of the Department of Natural Resources, spending the bulk of that time at EPD where he served as chief of the Land Protection Branch for five years.

Cown, who has a degree in agricultural engineering, is taking over the EPD as the division grapples with the permitting of Twin Pines Minerals’ controversial plans to strip mine for titanium dioxide near the Okefenokee Swamp. His previous experience has some activists cautiously optimistic that he’ll consider their concerns about the proposed mine’s effects on the beloved swamp.

Jeff Cown
Jeff Cown Credit: Maggie Lee/The Current

Also noted

•  Georgians can help researchers better understand how pollinator populations are doing by taking part in the Great Southeast Pollinator Census on Aug. 18-19, 2023. The count requires only 15 minutes of watching one plant and recording the numbers of insects that visit. Sign up and watch an instructional video at the website.

•  State regulators recently fined Savannah $3,000 for problems at its President Street wastewater treatment plant, including “Failing to document that a hazard review had been conducted at least once every five years to ensure that the problems identified are resolved in a timely manner.”

•  Finally, a farewell. Captain Herbert McIver, affectionately known as “Truck,” died last week at his home in Darien. After shrimping for 40 years, he worked with the UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant, joining the team full-time in 2016. He was captain of the R/V Georgia Bulldog and “a dearly loved friend and colleague,” his co-workers wrote.

Captain Herbert "Truck" McIver
Captain Herbert “Truck” McIver Credit: UGA Marine Extension and Sea Grant

If you have feedback, questions, concerns, or just like what you see, let us know at thecurrentga@gmail.com.

How urban residents can adapt to rising heat

As man-made climate change intesifies urban heat islands, city dwellers need to adapt.

Continue reading…

What is hydrogen, and can it be a climate change solution?

Hydrogen is an up and coming alternative fuel source, but it isn’t always produced in a climate friendly manner.

Continue reading…

Jeff Cown named EPD director

The EPD’s new director is a 33-year veteran of the Department of Natural Resources.

Continue reading…

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Mary Landers covers Coastal Georgia’s environment for The Current, a topic she covered for nearly 24 years at the Savannah Morning News, where she began and ended her time there writing about health,...