Environment State & National News

Alarming Climate Change Effects on FL

November 21, 2011

by Les Coleman, Florida News Service–

MIAMI, Fla. – “Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation” is out, and none too soon: 2011 has been one of the most costly years on record for extreme weather events worldwide, and the U.S. has had more “billion dollar events” than ever before. Released by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the new report reveals that changes in weather patterns and resulting ocean warming will have a direct effect on Florida.

Dr. Harold Wanless, professor and chair of the Dept. of Geological Sciences, University of Miami, co-authored the report. He warns that by the end of this century, regions of South Florida will be uninhabitable.

“There is consensus that Miami-Dade County will be abandoned, basically, by the end of the century. Mumbai will be abandoned – 15 million people, Atlantic City – you name it. With a four- or five-foot rise in sea level, most of the deltas of the world will be abandoned.”

The rise in sea level is a result of warming due to carbon dioxide gas released into the atmosphere from burning fossil fuels, Wanless explains. As sea water warms, polar ice melts.

The report reflects the recognition that the changing planetary climate is increasing living creatures’ exposure to extreme weather events. By managing risk and boosting preparedness, the report suggests, humans can increase their resiliency to potentially devastating events.

The Obama Administration is working to increase climate resiliency throughout the U.S. However, for South Florida, Wanless says it may be too little, too late.

“South Florida has seen about a 10-inch rise in sea level since 1930. That’s about eight times the rate over the several thousand years before that.”

Florida Gov. Rick Scott told reporters last year that global warming and climate change are unproven. Scott’s office did not respond to a request for comments on the report.

Wanless says the water is lapping at Floridians’ feet.

“We’re at levels now that we haven’t seen for 600,000 years or so; we’ll shortly be at levels we haven’t seen in over a million years, at which time sea levels were about 100 feet higher than they are today. That’s where we’re heading.”

Wanless says he hopes Scott will get the message, adding that the governor’s own home in Naples would be swamped.

The full report is available at http://af.reuters.com/article/commoditiesNews/idAFL5E7MI32K20111118.

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