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It’s too hot to ignore climate change in Florida anymore | Editorial

If Florida doesn’t change, it will be too hot for our children four months a year.

Good stewards leave something better than they found it. But will Florida be a place where your children or your grandchildren even want to live? The heat is on, the seas are rising, and warming waters may be exacerbating Red Tides and toxic blue-green algae blooms. Florida is deeply affected by climate change, and the effects are accelerating. You can literally feel them. If we don’t cut carbon emissions, the Sunshine State will become more purgatory than paradise. Is that what we want for our kids and their kids? Will we let that be our legacy?

THE HEAT.

MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE   |   Times
MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE | Times

Think it’s hot now? Just wait. A new study by the Union of Concerned Scientists predicts that by mid-century it may be unsafe to work outside in the Tampa Bay area for a third of the year. Unless we stem climate change, we may face four months each year with a heat index of 105 degrees or more — that’s compared with four such days a year right now.

THE RISING WATERS.

Photo by Lucky Douglas, Neptune Grill.
Photo by Lucky Douglas, Neptune Grill.

Sea level is rising, and it’s doing so faster. Even based on a conservative sea-level rise scenario, Florida could face costs of $76 billion to build sea walls by 2040 to mitigate the effects of climate change, according to a recent report from Resilient Analytics and the Center for Climate Integrity. No one believes that sea walls are actually a cure-all, but it’s a grim way to put a price on the problem. Worse, the Tampa Bay region is particularly susceptible to sea level rise. In reality, residents will have to retreat from the water in many places, abandoning some expensive waterfront real estate, and then letting nature — mangroves, for example — provide buffers from the rising waters.

THE CRUD.

Boats docked at Central Marine in Stuart are surrounded by blue green algae in 2016. (Greg Lovett/The Palm Beach Post via AP)
Boats docked at Central Marine in Stuart are surrounded by blue green algae in 2016. (Greg Lovett/The Palm Beach Post via AP)

Warming waters and run-off of polluting fertilizer provide ideal conditions for toxic algae blooms to flourish as well as amplifying the effects of naturally occurring Red Tides.

WHAT TO DO?

The coal-fired Plant Scherer, one of the nation's top carbon dioxide emitters, stands in the distance in Juliette, Ga., in 2017. (AP Photo/Branden Camp)
The coal-fired Plant Scherer, one of the nation's top carbon dioxide emitters, stands in the distance in Juliette, Ga., in 2017. (AP Photo/Branden Camp)

It will take a huge commitment of time, effort and money to stem this problem. But it must be addressed — now. One good way to raise money while cutting pollution is a fair carbon tax. It would literally put a price on pollution and make polluters pay instead of giving them a free ride. It’s a smart way to let the free market, not the government, pick winners and losers.

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