Cause for Alarm! Florida’s Climate Change

Everyone has their own idea of climate change, even those who refuse to believe in it. At the eye of this hurricane of (mis)information is the large and environmentally diverse state of Florida.

What many agree upon, however, is the difference between climate change, which refers to the variation in the Earth’s global or regional climates over time and global warming, which solely focuses on the increase in average global temperatures as influenced by increased greenhouse gas concentrations. Consisting of carbon dioxide, methane, ozone, nitrous oxide and others, greenhouse gases allow sunlight but not heat to pass through the atmosphere.  Because these gases are essentially trapped, the base temperature of Earth risen at an alarming rate. Compared to cooler climates, summer temperatures in Florida have increased relatively slowly, to 81.4°F from 1991-2010 and given a moderate emissions rate, are projected to rise to 83°F by 2030.

Nevertheless, the two are intertwined, with each impacting the other in these and many other areas.

Weather/Hurricanes:  While opinions also differ about long-term effects, most experts believe warmer waters and ice melt will likely result in more frequent and stronger storms (and storm surges) as well as increased inland flooding. No part of Florida will be safe from extreme weather events.

Agriculture: While warm-weather crops will be subjected to fewer freezes, constant and increasing heat will not only with reduce production of temperate crops but also negatively affect the health of farm animals. Climate change has also exacerbated citrus greening (Huanglongbing/HLB), which has already decimated Florida’s orange crops.   

Sea changes:  Florida’s coral reefs are bleaching and dying as temperatures rise. Algal blooms along the West Coast have not only driven away tourists but harmed sea life, killing sea grass and starving out the already endangered manatee. Because of wind and ocean circulation, Florida’s rise in sea level is much higher than average, resulting in beach erosion and flooding. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates that Florida’s sea level will to rise from 8 to 23 inches by 2099.

Groups such as the Florida Climate Center, Everglades Foundation, the Florida Climate Change Reporting Network and others have devoted themselves to studying and finding remedies.  Florida’s government recently committed nearly $500 million to help local governments adapt to rising seas and temperatures.  But more needs to be done, not only by organizations but individuals. Otherwise, it’s batten the hatches, here comes another Category 5!