The state of Florida is no stranger to scorching temperatures – it’s known as the Sunshine State for a reason!
But over the past few years, Florida has been feeling the heat differently.
Climate change comes with an increase in temperatures and changes in weather patterns, which have had a significant impact across the state.
From its economy to its environment, the state of Florida is taking steps to address and mitigate climate change.
The impacts of climate change in Florida
Here’s a quick rundown of how climate change is affecting Florida:
The economic impact
Climate change is causing sea levels to rise, impacting coastal communities and businesses.
It is estimated that by 2040, sea-level rise will cost the state of Florida $35 billion per year.
The environmental impact
Global warming is causing temperatures to increase, leading to more extreme weather conditions, such as hurricanes and wildfires.
These severe weather events are damaging homes, businesses, and natural habitats, and they’re also costing taxpayers billions of dollars in damages.
The health impact
As the climate continues to change, it’s becoming more difficult for Florida residents to stay healthy. There is an increased risk of heatstroke, dehydration, and other health problems with rising temperatures and more extreme weather events.
Florida’s high-impact climate zones
Global warming is starting to take its toll on Tampa Bay.
Since the 1970s, the Tampa Bay region’s average temperatures have risen by 3.2 degrees Fahrenheit. Those temperatures are set to only continue to rise within the next decade.
The water is becoming increasingly salty, killing off many of the marine life that call Tampa Bay home.
In addition, the increasing temperatures are causing the area to become increasingly dry, making it harder for people and plants to survive. If global warming continues to ravage Tampa Bay, it may soon lose its status as one of Florida’s most beautiful areas.
The majority of Fort Lauderdale residents live less than five feet above sea level. With sea levels expected to rise between another nine inches to two feet in the next 50 years, the effects for these communities are likely to be devastating, with widespread flooding and displacement.
Many Florida counties are reported to be at risk of medium to high levels of the toxin Karenia Brevis, which causes gastrointestinal and respiratory problems in marine life and coastal birds.
In addition to being harmful to the species that live in these areas, the toxin has a serious economic effect on communities that rely heavily on tourism as their primary source of income.
Warming and acidification of the marine ecosystem
The Florida coastline is a beautiful and popular destination for tourists, but climate change could soon render it nearly uninhabitable.
Florida’s Reef Tract is the most significant barrier reef in the continental United States. Warming and acidification threaten the state’s marine ecosystems, fisheries, and tourism economy.
Warmer water temperatures can cause coral bleaching, while more acidic waters can dissolve coral reefs. This will impact the environment and the fishing industry, as fish species that rely on coral habitats to survive will disappear. In addition, increased ocean temperatures will lead to more severe storms and floods, which could damage coastal infrastructure and disrupt tourism.
Rising sea levels and flooding
Florida is one of the most vulnerable states in the country when it comes to sea-level rise and flooding. The state’s low-lying topography, long coastline, and large population make it susceptible to the impacts of climate change.
Sea level rise is a global problem, but it is especially acute in Florida.
The state has more than 1700 miles of coastline and an average elevation of just six feet above sea level. As the oceans warm and expand due to climate change, the seas are slowly creeping higher each year.
The effects of this are already being felt in Florida. Flooding is becoming more common, especially during high tides and storms. Low-lying areas are inundated with saltwater, damaging infrastructure and contaminating drinking water. Beach erosion is also a growing problem as the waves eat away at the sand.
As sea-level rise accelerates in the coming years, these problems will only worsen. The state will have to adapt quickly to protect its residents and critical infrastructure from the rising waters.
But adaptation will be expensive and complicated. Florida is already struggling to keep up with the impacts of climate change that are being felt today. And as sea-level rise accelerates, it will become even more complicated for the state to stay ahead of the floodwaters.
This is most evident in the increased frequency and severity of hurricanes hitting Florida. We have seen some of the worst storms to ever hit our state in just the past few years.
In 2004, Hurricane Charley was a Category Four storm that caused massive damage and made landfall in Southwest Florida. The storm surge destroyed homes and businesses along the coast and winds up to 150 mph leveled entire neighborhoods.
In 2005, Hurricanes Katrina and Rita struck Florida within weeks of each other. Both were major Category Three storms that caused extensive damage across the state. Katrina’s storm surge devastated coastal communities in South Florida, while Rita’s high winds knocked out power to millions of people.
And in 2017, Hurricane Irma was one of the most powerful storms ever recorded in the Atlantic Ocean. The Category Five storm caused widespread damage across Florida, including a record-breaking storm surge in Jacksonville.
These hurricanes are just a few examples of the increasingly severe weather that we are seeing as a result of climate change. And unfortunately, they are likely to become more common in the years to come.
How Florida is preparing for climate change
As the effects of climate change become more pronounced, Florida residents are preparing for the worst.
The response by Florida’s residents
Many people have installed hurricane shutters and raised their homes to avoid flooding. Some have even relocated to higher ground.
Others are taking a proactive approach by planting mangroves and building artificial reefs. These natural barriers can help protect against storm surges and erosion. In addition, they provide a habitat for fish and other wildlife.
With the state’s vulnerability to climate change, Florida residents are doing what they can to protect themselves and their property – but it will take more than individual efforts to make a lasting difference. A collective effort from all levels of government is needed to address the global problem of climate change.
The response by Florida’s governments
The Florida Legislature has taken a big step in addressing climate change by establishing the Resilient Florida Program. The new program will help communities prepare for and adapt to the effects of climate change.
“As we continue to experience more extreme weather events, our state government must do everything possible to help local communities become more resilient,” said State Senator Jeff Brandes.
“This new program will do just that by providing necessary funding and resources to allow our cities and counties to take action.”
The Resilient Florida Program will provide $50 million per year for five years to local governments for projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve energy efficiency, and increase resilience to the effects of climate change. Yet, the budget allocation needs billions more.
This is a massive investment in Florida’s future, and it will go a long way in ensuring that our state is prepared for the challenges of climate change.
What more needs to be done to address the effects of climate change in Florida?
The Resilient Florida Program is an important step forward in addressing climate change, but it is only one piece of the puzzle.
However, this program is a big step in the right direction, and it shows that Florida is committed to protecting its people from the dangers of climate change.
How to get involved in Florida’s fight against climate change
Here are several organizations that you can volunteer with or donate to help Florida to fight its ongoing battle against climate change:
- The Nature Conservancy is working hard to protect Florida’s environment and wildlife habitats. They have a variety of programs, including land conservation, water resources, climate change adaptation, and education. You can donate money or time to this organization.
- The Everglades Foundation is fighting for the restoration and preservation of the Everglades. This vital ecosystem provides drinking water for millions of people and helps regulate our climate. They need volunteers for fundraising, outreach, public relations, and more.
- Suncoast Waterkeeper is dedicated to protecting Florida’s waterways. They work on things like water quality, pollution, and conservation. You can volunteer for them by becoming a “Waterkeeper Warrior” and taking action in your community.
These are just a few great organizations doing vital work to help combat climate change in Florida.
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