How Climate Change is Affecting Florida & What’s Being Done About It

In a 2022 global report by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, some of the world’s top scientists agreed that “The scientific evidence is unequivocal: climate change is a threat to human well-being and the health of the planet. Any further delay in concerted global action will miss a brief and rapidly closing window to secure a livable future.” 

*The report focused on global issues, but Florida stood out on the agenda. 

Florida has several problems due to climate change — an increased number of hurricanes and storms with greater intensity are posing major issues to human life, the ecosystem, and real estate. 

Problems include coral reefs’ bleaching and dying, harmful algal blooms such as Karenia brevis or red tide, and residents being forced to abandon their homes inland from the coast. 

Further, tidal flooding has caused well over $500 million in damage and is said to increase beyond the year 2050 without action on climate change. Miami-Dade County, in particular, has made efforts to raise roads and install storm pumps that have led to inequality for the area’s most vulnerable populations due to the increased cost of living.

According to the report, Florida could lose up to $55 billion in reef-related tourism money by 2100, while many Floridians are asking for more money to protect against increasing weather-related problems instead of causes like clean energy. 

What’s Being Done About Climate Change in Florida?

Florida’s low elevation and 825 miles of shoreline make it one of the most vulnerable places on the planet to climate change. Some scientists and innovators have created mini-hurricanes and corals while researching how to combine gray and green infrastructure, as well as building a solar-powered development. 

Professor Brian K. Haus and his team at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine, Atmospheric, and Earth Science SUSTAIN Lab have developed a wind-wave storm simulator that allows them to monitor how the wind, sea, and shorelines interact. 

They emulate when a Category-5 wind velocity hits steep and gradual shorelines and subsequent surge reactions while blasting life-size reef or mangrove structures to understand their protective value. Professor Haus and his associates have also bred coral to help withstand hot water, which can protect from violent storm surges. This graph shows how climate change affects coral reefs.

Landolf Rhode-Barbarigos, assistant professor of architectural engineering at the University of Miami, is involved with the ECoREEF project, which combines gray (manmade) and green (ecosystems/natural) infrastructure. Rhode-Barbarigos and ECoREEF are attempting to elevate wave energy and provide fertile areas for coral reefs to grow. 

Sydney Kitson, CEO of Kitson & Partners, was involved in planning a new solar-powered housing development east of Fort Myers called Babcock Ranch.

On Sept. 23, 2022, Hurricane Ian blasted eight straight hours of 100-150 mph winds over Babcock Ranch, and when Kitson and other residents emerged from the storm, they found the development never lost water, power, or the internet. 

Florida is facing a massive problem with climate change, and some believe the state has already failed. However, these innovations and other developments can go a long way toward protecting the state from climate change now and in the future.