A new report says climate change and variability is already affecting 11 southeastern states, including Kentucky, and it’s projected to worsen over the next two decades.

The report released by non-profit Climate Nexus represents the work of more than 100 scientists from various governmental and private organizations. It’s a comprehensive look at the effect climate change will have—and is already having—on the region.

These include a number of effects that you’ve probably heard about before: rising annual temperatures, more heat waves and increased pollen counts. Southeast Climate Consortium director Keith Ingram says agriculture throughout the region will take a big hit, as warmer temperatures reduce productivity and increase water demands. And the shorter cold season will hurt, too.

“During winter, we have some crops that need cool weather in order for their buds to flower,” Ingram said. “These would be things like blueberries, peaches, apples. So as we have warmer temperatures, we’re going to have adverse on all of these crops.”

These are effects that the southeast will be dealing with, even as the region contributes 27 percent of the nation’s carbon dioxide emissions. This is more than any other region.

But the region also has potential for playing a role in mitigating climate change. The report notes that four southeastern states rank in the top ten nationwide for renewable energy development (Kentucky isn’t one of them—the list includes Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and North Carolina.) And Lynn Carter of the Southern Climate Impacts Planning Program says the region has a lot of potential for mitigating some of climate change’s effects by sequestering carbon dioxide in soil and plants.

“The average annual carbon storage in inland natural ecosystems is about .3 petagrams, and frankly, that doesn’t mean much to me either, but it’s the equivalent of 4 million railcars of bituminous coal,” she said.

Carter says combating climate change should include protecting the forests, savannas and wetlands that serve as natural “carbon sinks,” as well as increasing the region’s commitment to renewable energy and energy efficiency.

Read the report