At first, when 24 Tampa Bay governments formed a regional coalition in October pledging to combat the effects of climate change, Pasco County held back from joining.
Pasco County Commissioner Jack Mariano, the county's representative on the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council, declined to forward the resolution to his commission colleagues for consideration until the Planning Council took out the words “climate change,” the Tampa Bay Times reported Nov. 16.
Mariano has since had a change of heart.
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The Pasco County Commission adopted the resolution last week with no discussion, becoming the 26th local government (New Port Richey previously joined) to join the Tampa Bay Regional Resiliency Coalition. During an earlier meeting, Mariano apologized to the commission for putting Pasco in a negative light. But he did not address his comments to the Times that he objected to signing the document because he disagrees with scientific evidence that human activity is the main cause of the warming atmosphere.
Mariano could not be reached for comment for this article.
Planning Council executive director Sean Sullivan confirmed the agency was working on creating an alternate resolution for Pasco County that did not have the words “climate change” at Mariano's request. But after a recent discussion, Mariano “felt it would be important to keep that term in the document,” Sullivan said.
“The term climate change throughout that document is there intentionally,” Sullivan said. “While we don't want to force that theory on anyone, it is a critical component of that document.”
Pasco's resolution still has one edit from the pact signed by the 25 other governments. At Mariano's request, it includes a clause encouraging “development of a regional standard for recommended design height and engineering for seawall repair” and construction in response to sea level rise and storm surge.
“That addition only strengthens the document and gives it more credibility,” Sullivan said.
Sullivan said the Planning Council is preparing to schedule workshops throughout the region to collect input on how governments can be more resilient to effects of climate change. The coalition's mission, modeled on a 2010 South Florida compact of 35 local governments, is to collaborate on best practices for raising sea walls, addressing flooding, revising building codes and other ways to mitigate and respond to sea level rise and climate change.
The federally mandated Fourth National Climate Assessment released Nov. 23 reconfirmed global temperatures are rising due to human activity and carbon pollution. A report in October from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicted that if greenhouse gas emissions continue at the current rate, the planet would see worsening food shortages, wildfires and droughts by 2040.
The Planning Council developed models based on a worst-case scenario data from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that Tampa Bay could experience 2.95 feet of sea level rise by 2060. In that case, the area could lose $241 million in residential property and $2.5 billion in tourism spending with the loss of beaches, hotels and restaurants.
Mariano stated previously he questioned the accuracy of the Planning Council's projections.
Contact Tracey McManus at [email protected] or (727) 445-4151. Follow @TroMcManus.