Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Florida will be hit hard by climate change

Ok, this isn't so much of interest to a biologist as it is to me - a current Florida resident. Two new studies today released by FSU and FAU begin to predict the toll of global climate change on Florida's economics, and the results aren't pretty.

"The impacts of climate change on Florida's coasts and on our economy will be substantial, persistent and long-term, even under our conservative estimates," says Julie Harrington, director of the Center for Economic Forecasting and Analysis at FSU. "Should, as many models predict, sea level rise, and hurricane strength and other factors become more extreme, much greater economic impacts will occur along many parts of Florida's coast in this century."

The FSU study used sea level estimates from FSU Beaches and Shores Resource Center and 2001 estimates from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to determine the effect that sea level rise would have on six coastal counties, factoring in projected trends in storm surge, flooding damage, and the property value of the land at risk. According the the models, if a storm like Wilma from 2005 hits again in 2080, the damage to Dade County alone will be 12 to 31% higher.

The FAU study also looked at future damage, and concluded that Florida needs state environmental, growth management and public infrastructure decision-making improvements to respond adequately to future climate change impacts.

"The goal of our study is to help the state of Florida adapt, in the most effective way possible, to climate change impacts that are now inevitable," says Jim Murley, director of Florida Atlantic University's Center for Urban and Environmental Solutions and leader of the study. Key findings of the report have been included by Gov. Crist's Climate and Energy Action Team as it adopted the "Adaptation" section of its final report this week in Tallahassee. "These approaches must be comprehensive and strategic, not piecemeal and episodic. Governor Crist and other leaders have rightly identified adapting to climate change as one of the state's greatest challenges -- we look forward to working with the state to protect our people, natural splendor, and economic livelihood. There is real work to be done."

Basically, Florida will be one of the hardest hit by climate change, and the state needs to start preparing. NOW. On the plus side, I'll be moving out of Florida in the next year or so (most likely, anyhow).