July 13, 2022

Is it hot in here?

The fact that it’s sweltering in Coastal Georgia in July isn’t exactly news. But when the thermometer keeps pushing the high 90s for days on end, you may wonder if that’s also evidence of global warming at work. Wonder no more. A new interactive tool from the nonprofit Climate Central helps tease out the effect of climate change on daily temperature across the U.S. in real time. The Climate Shift Index shows how much more likely the day’s temperature is because of excess carbon in the atmosphere. The tool brings climate attribution out of academia into the public space, said Marshall Shepherd, Director of the UGA Atmospheric Sciences Program. It also puts climate change in the present tense. “The DNA of climate change is in today’s weather so using future tense is no longer appropriate,” he said.

The low temperature on July 7 is predicted to be 76.5 F. That’s 3.2 degrees above the 30-year average. This abnormally hot low temperature is five times more likely because of climate change. Credit: Climate Central

Whale news and views

A beautiful, heartbreaking, but ultimately hopeful documentary about North Atlantic right whales had its Georgia debut at the Lucas Theatre in Savannah Tuesday. Only about 350 of these animals remain. Designated as Georgia’s state marine mammal, they migrate from their feeding grounds off New England and Canada to give birth in the warm waters off Georgia and Florida every winter. But they’re dying faster than they can reproduce, as “The Last of the Right Whales” explains. Among the worst threats to these long-lived whales are entanglements in fishing gear and vessel strikes. Even recreational boaters can kill a right whale with their boats, as Craig Pittman reported in the Georgia Recorder. Last week, a federal judge ruled that more needs to be done to protect the whales from lobster and crab fishing gear, the Associated Press reported. The film explores how some fishers are trying out new gear that keeps dangerous fishing lines out of the water. After Tuesday’s film showing, The Current’s Mary Landers led a panel of experts who addressed how Coastal Georgians can play a part in right whale conservation.

Right whale #3157 with her calf off Cumberland Island on Feb. 11, 2022. Credit: Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, taken under NOAA permit 20556

BEACH ADVISORIES: As of this writing, there are no beach water bacteria advisories posted in Coastal Georgia. Permanent advisories are in place for three beaches: Clam Creek Beach and St. Andrews Beach on Jekyll Island; and King’s Ferry County Park on the Ogeechee River at the Chatham/Bryan County line.

Before you head to the beach, check the link to see current notices.

Court cases continue

The primaries are over, but it’s still not certain who will represent the Democrats in two statewide races for the Public Service Commission come November. There’s even a chance the PSC elections will be canceled this year.

The PSC is a five-member board that regulates monopoly utilities in the state, including Georgia Power. Candidates must reside in the district for which they’re running, but voting is statewide for each seat. Two ongoing lawsuits are challenging the eligibility of the Democrats who won their primaries, Patty Durand in District 2 and Shelia Edwards in District 3. The challenges are based on residency and are complicated by recent redistricting and an appointed incumbent’s residency history. Edwards’ case was heard in Cobb County Superior Court Tuesday and a ruling is expected within a week or so, according to Attorney Bryan Sells, who represented plaintiff and second place primary finisher Chandra Farley. Durand’s case is scheduled for July 26 in Fulton County Superior Court. If she’s disqualified the Democratic Party can name a candidate to her spot.

A third lawsuit, Rose v. Raffensperger, challenges the practice of holding a statewide vote for the PSC positions, saying it’s not fair to Black voters, who make up a majority of some of the districts but whose voting strength is diluted when all Georgia voters can weigh in on the contest. That trial was held in late June and a ruling is expected by August 12, Sells said. One possible outcome? “If the judge rules in the plaintiffs’ favor it will cancel this election,” said Sells, who represents the plaintiffs. Incumbents would remain in their seats until a new election could be held with voting by districts.

Supreme Court hears Spaceport vote

Speaking of court actions, the Georgia Supreme Court will soon be hearing the case about the viability of Camden County’s March 8 referendum. That’s when voters overwhelmingly sent the message that they did not want the county to purchase the land for Spaceport Camden. The county responded by suing its own probate court judge to invalidate the referendum results. The state Supreme Court is scheduled to hear the case August 23. Georgia Recorder reporter Stanley Dunlap examines each side’s arguments in a case that pits citizens against their local government.

Ben Goff used his VW bug to promote a yes vote. Credit: Mary Landers/The Current

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

It’s hot. Is that normal or is it climate change?

Do you think hotter daytime temperatures in Georgia are due to climate change? A new tool shows why warmer nighttime weather is even more worrisome.

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Concerns about North Atlantic Right Whales grow as calving season ends

About a century after commercial hunting for North Atlantic right whales was banned, experts estimate there are only about 375 of the animals living. Fewer than 100 of those are breeding females.

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Redistricting left 2 PSC candidates out of their districts. One got to keep her candidacy, one didn’t.

Redistricting reshape races for powerful commission seats as board challengers face residency rules.

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Federal trial starts claiming Black voters disenfranchised by Georgia PSC elections

Attorneys for the plaintiffs Monday laid out plans to prove that the state’s systemic racial dilution violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Black Georgians  represent more than 30% of the voting age population, yet have not had a candidate they overwhelmingly support elected in the last decade.

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Last minute election snafu in Georgia’s public service commissioner race

Georgia’s Republican Secretary of State disqualified PSC candidate Patty Durand hours before Tuesday’s primary. She claims she’s a victim of partisan politics.

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Georgia Supreme Court’s spaceport case pits 1st Amendment vs. county home rule

Most county laws that affect residents are passed by local officials as opposed to the Georgia General Assembly, the referendum affords residents the ability to veto measures like the Camden spaceport where many residents felt they were being ignored by county commissioners.

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