By Cindy Banyai, Ph.D.
Whether politicians want to believe it or not, we are experiencing climate change and human activity is behind it. In this episode of Perspective on Lee Pitts Live, we will look at the effects of climate change, how we will be affected, as well as the actions are being taken to combat it.
According to the United Nations, Climate change refers to long-term shifts in temperatures and weather patterns. These shifts may be natural, but since the 1800s, human activities have been the main driver of climate change, primarily due to the burning of fossil fuels (like coal, oil, and gas) which produces heat-trapping gasses.
There is no debate among scientists that climate change is real. It is happening and getting worse. There is also no debate that humans are driving climate change. Global warming and sea level rise are part of climate change. According to Climate Change Central, a climate change think tank, Florida will see more days over 90 degrees, more mosquitos from more hurricanes and rain, and more humidity from rising dewpoints. The Florida Oceans and Coastal Council points that rising sea temperatures are stressing coral reefs, increasing harmful algal blooms, and killing off sponges and seagrass, a major food for Florida’s beloved manatees. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), part of the UN, established in the 1980s to compile research and report on climate change. In their 2022 report, they established that even if global warming is limited to 1.5°C, human life, safety, and livelihoods across North America, especially in coastal areas, like Florida, will be placed at risk from sea level rise, severe storms, and hurricanes. Rising sea temperatures will negatively affect fish, causing shifts in where they can be found, damaging our food supplies and tourism markets. According to NASA, sea levels have risen 4 inches since January 1983, driven by melting Artic sea ice, which decreased 13% since 1979.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is a federal agency tasked to protect the environment. A report by the EPA, noted that Along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts of Florida, the land surface is sinking. If the oceans and atmosphere continue to warm, sea level along the Florida coast is likely to rise one to four feet in the next century. Rising sea level submerges wetlands and dry land, erodes beaches, and exacerbates coastal flooding. This means that where we are living has a god chance of being underwater in the not so distant future. The US organization, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA), part of the US Department of Commerce - forecasts weather, monitors oceanic and atmospheric conditions, charts the seas, conducts deep sea exploration, and manages fishing and protection of marine mammals and endangered species in the U.S. A 2022 NOAA prediction states that Southwest Florida will see daily tidal floods by 2100. These floods can damage streets, backup sewers and septic systems – we are talking about poop running through the streets!
We can expect changes typical weather patterns. Places that are used to seeing rain see less, and places that are dry are seeing more rain. These changes can overwhelm the land and infrastructure, causing property damage or even death. August 2022 flooding in Kentucky is a recent example, where 38 people died when historic rains caused flash flooding that their drainage systems couldn’t handle. This year’s flooding in Fort Lauderdale is another example. The Western US has been experiencing droughts, threatening freshwater supplies in California and Las Vegas. Dry conditions also lead to intensifying wildfires, that kill people, destroy homes, and contaminate the air and water supplies hurting human health.
So what is being done to protect people from the existential threat of Climate Change? Sadly not enough, but there are some global and national efforts. The Paris Agreement is an international treaty on climate change, adopted by 196 countries in 2015 covering climate change mitigation, adaptation, and finance. The US left the agreement under Trump, but Biden immediately re-entered. Its goal is to limit global warming to well below 2, preferably to 1.5 degrees Celsius, compared to pre-industrial levels. Each country comes up with its own strategy to meet these goals.
The Biden Inflation Reduction Act will help the US address climate change. Provides tax breaks for electric vehicles and energy-efficient home upgrades. Additional policies in the US and around the world can draw on the work of Project Drawdown, which offers data-backed climate change solutions including addressing global poverty and investing in women and girls, reducing food waste, promoting plant-rich diets, refrigerant management, tropical forest restoration, wind turbines, and more.
We all want to live in a clean and healthy world and have our children and grandchildren be able to enjoy their lives on this planet. With the growing concerns of climate change, especially here in Florida, that future is at risk. We must have policymakers that are willing to take on climate change. This is a problem for us here in Florida because so many of our officials, like Byron Donalds, don’t even believe in climate change and take special interest money from big polluters, including oil companies. How can we expect them to have our future and our best interests in mind, when they are working for someone else?