Our nation and our planet are in a state of climate emergency. Florida is Ground Zero.
The challenge in low-lying areas of Miami is especially well known. A new analysis by Climate Central reveals that, if we don’t take action to reduce heat-trapping emissions, Miami Beach will have more affordable housing units threatened by rising sea levels by 2050 than any other city in Florida.
The risk, however, looms over the entire state. Of all coastal states in the lower 48, Florida has the most homes at risk of chronic inundation in the next 30 years. And, Florida is one of the top three states that will see the largest rise in extreme heat.
The Sunshine State has long attracted a steady stream of new residents and visitors searching for its outdoor charms. Unfortunately, the increasingly worsening consequences of the environmental threat aren’t happening in some distant decade but are already impacting our way of life, from the drinking water we depend on to the wildlife and biodiversity vanishing around us.
The longer the climate crisis continues unchecked, the less Florida we will have. This is a harsh reality.
Furthermore, suggesting that we must choose between protecting the environment and our pocketbooks is a false narrative. Indeed, Floridians, especially communities of color that are on the frontlines of this crisis, continue to pay higher prices for the inaction.
The average yearly cost for a property insurance policy in Florida is nearly double what it is in the rest of the country, due in part to estimated losses from hurricanes. According to the Insurance Information Institute, so far in 2022, statewide homeowner insurance premiums are up nearly 25% from last year. In fact, catastrophic losses from hurricanes have driven most of the big national insurers out of the Florida property insurance market in recent decades.
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However, problems associated with extreme heat and sea level rise extend beyond economics. The risks include increased saltwater intrusion, which not only contaminates drinking water supplies but also affects freshwater marshes that are home to endangered species.
In addition, the climate crisis poses health dangers that impact all Floridians, particularly outdoor workers who — in the coming decades — are projected to face nearly $8.4 billion in total annual earnings at risk due to extreme heat if we do not reduce heat-trapping emissions.
The time for action is long overdue, and we must move with urgency and agency. Protecting our natural resources, homes, businesses, and the health and lives of current and future generations, shouldn’t be a partisan issue.
Even though the impacts are dire, the climate crisis is a race we can and must win. We already have the technology and the resources needed to tackle the climate emergency. The Sunshine State can be energy independent and lead the clean energy revolution that’s already underway. The passing of the bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the recent Inflation Reduction Law can fund the decarbonization the science demands; we simply need to rally the will.
Government alone cannot solve the problem, but it must play a leading role in enabling conditions for clean energy technology and innovation to flourish while limiting the harmful effects of global warming pollution and unchecked environmental degradation.
We must seize these investment opportunities and put the state on a clean, renewable energy pathway to help limit the future frequency of algal blooms or extreme weather events like heatwaves impacting so many Floridians. We need to set a goal now so we can reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2040, with an interim goal focused on increasing energy efficiency and scaling up rooftop solar owned by Floridians by 2025 — an idea that should be a no-brainer in a state favored with bountiful sunshine year-round.
You too can do your part by making your views known. The climate crisis is a crucial issue affecting our state. Sign the petition to put Florida on a clean renewable pathway by visiting https://bit.ly/FLClimateEmergency.
We must act soon — or we risk turning the Sunshine State into the Climate Emergency State.
Yoca Arditi-Rocha is executive director of The CLEO Institute. Thais Lopez Vogel is co-founder and trustee of VoLo Foundation. Rachel Licker is Principal Climate Scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists. “The Invading Sea” is the opinion arm of the Florida Climate Reporting Network, a collaborative of Editorial Boards across the state, including the Tampa Bay Times, focusing on the threats posed by the warming climate.