Make us your home page

Impact of climate change on Florida economy could be huge

Yes, climate change is about the environment. But it's also about the economy.

Extensive media coverage of the 829-page federal climate change report released this week largely chronicles the threats already experienced: rising seas, hotter summers and dwindling water assets.

Little attention was paid to how those threats could damage our vulnerable economy, especially to Tampa Bay and Florida. The impact might be severe and land sooner than we might think.

The scientific report, the "National Climate Assessment," points out how Floridians with jobs ranging from coastal planners and insurance agents to home builders and tourism executives already are dealing with the early effects of climate change.

South of the Tampa Bay region in Charlotte County, transportation officials are looking beyond typical "smart growth" plans that concentrate growth in urban centers. They also embrace "resilient growth" plans to steer development away from areas vulnerable to rising seas.

Record-setting state tourism also could fall prey.

"Some of Florida's top tourist attractions, including the Everglades and Florida Keys, are threatened by sea level rise," the report states. It estimates tourism losses of $9 billion by 2025 and $40 billion by the 2050s.

Here's something we already see: Homes in lower-lying areas are becoming economic pariahs. As flooding increases, tougher construction rules keep raising home prices. Already volatile flood insurance costs will spur migration away from coastlines in the coming decades.

Even if only half of these forecasts occur, we might be in a world of economic hurt.

What to do?

We could adopt "hard" approaches and build pricey seawalls and levees.

We could pursue "soft" methods by elevating more structures or using natural barriers such as wetlands. Or, the report says, we could retreat from the vulnerable parts of the state.

Florida and Tampa Bay also face the threat of saltwater intrusion that can pollute sources of drinking water. That could prompt more reser­voirs and even more desalination plants such as the $158 mil­lion Apollo Beach unit that took seven years to function.

The National Climate Assessment estimates that more than $1 trillion of the nation's property and structures are "at risk of inundation" if sea levels rise 2 more feet.

"Roughly half of the vulnerable property value is located in Florida," the report warns, with Tampa Bay among places most likely to get soaked.

By 2100, if seas rise 4 feet, look for a cumulative cost of $325 billion to the U.S. economy in responding to widespread flooding, the report says. Florida's portion of that bill? Try $130 billion.

How is Florida's leadership dealing with this? Too many take the approach they take on many of the state's complex matters: They deny the problem exists. Or they're happy to let the next generation sweat the details.

Robert Trigaux can be reached at

Impact of climate change on Florida economy could be huge 05/07/14 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 7, 2014 9:02pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Pinellas licensing board asks Sen. Jack Latvala for $500,000 loan

    Local Government

    The troubled Pinellas County agency that regulates contractors wants Sen. Jack Latvala to help it get a $500,000 lifeline from the state to stay afloat.

    State Sen . Jack Latvala, R- Clearwater, is being asked to help the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board get $500,000 from the state so it can stay open beyond February.  [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]
  2. In advertising, marketing diversity needs a boost in Tampa Bay, nationally


    TAMPA — Trimeka Benjamin was focused on a career in broadcast journalism when she entered Bethune-Cookman University.

    From left, Swim Digital marketing owner Trimeka Benjamin discusses the broad lack of diversity in advertising and marketing with 22 Squared copywriter Luke Sokolewicz, University of Tampa advertising/PR professor Jennifer Whelihan, Rumbo creative director George Zwierko and Nancy Vaughn of the White Book Agency. The group recently met at The Bunker in Ybor City.
  3. Tampa Club president seeks assessment fee from members


    TAMPA — The president of the Tampa Club said he asked members last month to pay an additional assessment fee to provide "additional revenue." However, Ron Licata said Friday that the downtown business group is not in a dire financial situation.

    Ron Licata, president of the Tampa Club in downtown Tampa. [Tampa Club]
  4. Under Republican health care bill, Florida must make up $7.5 billion


    If a Senate bill called the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017 becomes law, Florida's government would need to make up about $7.5 billion to maintain its current health care system. The bill, which is one of the Republican Party's long-promised answers to the Affordable Care Act imposes a cap on funding per enrollee …

    Florida would need to cover $7.5 billion to keep its health care program under the Republican-proposed Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017.  [Times file photo]
  5. Amid U.S. real estate buying binge by foreign investors, Florida remains first choice

    Real Estate

    Foreign investment in U.S. residential real estate recently skyrocketed to a new high with nearly half of all foreign sales happening in Florida, California and Texas.

    A National Association of Realtors annual survey found record volume and activity by foreign buyers of U.S. real estate. Florida had the highest foreign investment activity, followed by California and Texas. [National Association of Realtors]