Oil spilling from The Golden Ray off St. Simons and Jekyll islands has been contained as of Monday, according to St. Simons Sound Incidence Response. The spill started after demolition crews finished separating the ship’s sixth of eight sections on July 30. The barrier set up around the ship to block oil was foiled as the tide changed. Oily, black material washed into marsh grasses, riprap and beach sand along St. Simons Island and just south on Jekyll Island beaches. On Saturday, wildlife rehabilitation specialists recovered 20 oiled juvenile Royal terns from Bird Island and took them to a rehabilitation center in South Carolina for treatment.


A new United Nations-led climate change report released over the weekend brings new clarity to the rapid environmental changes due to the climate crisis. The landmark report comes from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a body of top scientists assembled by the United Nations. It uses some of the starkest language yet to characterize the crisis. The report will be central to discussions at the upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland in November

The basics: Our world is rapidly warming and every corner of the globe is feeling the impacts of climate change. Earth’s atmosphere is 1.1 degrees C (1.98 degrees F) hotter than it was at pre-industrial levels, and the world is likely locked in to 1.5 degrees C increase. That’s 2.7 degrees F warmer – a threshold used as the basis of the 2015 Paris Agreement. Scientists behind the report say the changes we’re experiencing in our world are unprecedented, and that many of them, like sea level rise, are irreversible over hundreds or even thousands of years. The report also connects an uptick in extreme weather events, like hurricanes, wildfires, and flooding, to climate change. 

The report is grim. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for hope. While the report makes it “unequivocally” clear that humans – notably fossil fuel companies – are to blame for the crisis, humans are also behind the solutions. Through a renewable energy transition, restored nature-human connections and adopting adaptation and mitigation measures, significant progress can be made to slow temperature increases and avoid the worst of disaster. But the report makes it clear that net zero global emissions must be made by 2050 to stop warming at 1.5 degrees C, and progress toward those targets must start immediately. 

Want to see what it means to Coastal Georgia? The IPCC report also came with an interactive atlas you can explore to see what your neighborhood would look like at higher temperatures or different degrees of sea-level rise, which you can view here.

BEACH ADVISORIES: There is currently a beach water quality advisory at South Beach at the lighthouse on St. Simons Island. Before you head to the beach, check the link for updates.


Two billboards addressing U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock have been placed in his hometown of Savannah asking him to incentivize “crops not cattle” in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The billboards are sponsored by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a nonprofit health organization of 17,000 total physicians, 303 of which are from Georgia. The group is advocating for state and federal governments to help cut emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, by reducing the presence of industrial animal agriculture. In 2019, animal agriculture was responsible for 10% of total U.S greenhouse gas emissions, according to the EPA. The nonprofit argues that in order to curb emissions and subsequent impacts from climate change, animal agriculture must be replaced by plant-based foods. Some scientists say that keeping some grazing populations of cows is key to a healthy ecosystem, since grazing improves soil health and increases the amount of carbon dioxide soil can pull from the air. 

“Since Senator Warnock is a member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, the Physicians Committee is asking him to assist farmers who wish to grow crops like pecans or peaches while phasing out livestock production,” said Susan Levin, MS, RD, director of nutrition education for Physicians Committee, in a press release.


Georgia’s Environmental Protection Division has issued the first proposed permit allowing Georgia Power to move forward with plans to leave over 1 million tons of coal ash in an unlined pit at Floyd County’s Plant Hammond near the Coosa River, the Georgia Recorder reports. The state is now seeking public input. The permit is one in a series of decisions that will be made for four other plants across the state, including two much larger ponds holding 16 million tons of coal ash each. The coal ash at all five of the plants is sitting in groundwater, raising concerns from environmentalists about drinking water quality, but the EPD says there will be a robust groundwater monitoring system in place at the ponds. Here’s the link with information on how to submit your thoughts.

SHIP WATCH: What’s arriving and when. This week’s lineup includes the Hyundai Victory, arriving on Aug. 16. It’s 1199 feet long and 160 feet wide, and it carries 13,100 TEUs, aka containers, according to VesselTracker.com.

For the past few weeks, this newsletter has been produced by Summer Reporting Fellow Kayla Guilliams. She’ll be headed back to the University of North Carolina to complete her master’s degree this week.

State regulators poised to set Georgia Power’s toxic coal ash storage legacy

Georgia’s Environmental Protection Division has issued the first proposed permit allowing Georgia Power to press forward with plans to leave more than 1 million tons of coal ash in an unlined pit at Floyd County’s Plant Hammond near the Coosa River. it would be one of 4 locations to be permitted.

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Golden Ray oil spill concerns environmentalists

Crews have been working since Saturday to clean up a discharge of oil from the capsized Golden Ray off St. Simons Island, a spill that has prompted concerns from environmentalists about the potential impacts on the coast.

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Ship Watch

This week’s scheduled vessels for Georgia Ports Authority.

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High-tide flood risk is accelerating, putting coastal economies at risk

Areas at risk from sea level rise have seen drops in property values, particularly where cities and homeowners haven’t taken steps to increase flood resilience. Insurance premiums are beginning to increase to reflect actual risk, and bond ratings are increasingly tied to community resilience efforts.

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