Hooper: Deal with sea-level rise or prepare to be inundated

Published January 22
Updated January 22

When fans again flock to Tampa’s Bayshore Boulevard for the annual Gasparilla Festival on Saturday, I hope they ask a question: Will the floats need flotation devices in 2035?

Erika Spanger-Siegfried, Astrid Caldas and Kate Cell, members of the Union of Concerned Scientists, brought a message to Florida last week that rising sea levels deserve more attention. And more action.

The scientists have spent four years developing an analysis (tinyurl.com/yab6edw9) with maps that forecast the impact of sea level rise from now to 2100 — if we take no action.

And yes, in 2035, their analysis indicates that with moderate sea-level rise, a stretch of Bayshore from Swann Avenue to W Watrous Avenue can expect to be chronically inundated with "sunny day flooding" at least 26 times a year. Remember, we saw sunny day flooding along Bayshore last year. Hello.

The scientists say such chronic flooding will disrupt life to the point the status quo no longer can be maintained. This is more than an inconvenience.

The map reveals pockets all around Tampa Bay and Florida’s west coast that will be chronically inundated. It could be more difficult to land planes at St. Pete-Clearwater International, drive on the Courtney Campbell or own a home near Riviera Bay in St. Petersburg.

The analysis necessitates a West Coast Climate Compact, similar to what South Florida has had since 2010. Pinellas County Commissioner Janet Long is leading the effort for a regional approach to reduce global warming emissions and invest in resilience to sea-level rise. Water connects — and impacts — all of us.

If we can stop denying the science, get everybody on board and slow the tide, well, that would be cause for another parade.

That’s all I’m saying.