By Claude Gerstle, Citizens’ Climate Lobby
Many serious threats to our welfare are not immediately visible until quantifiable damage occurs as happened with the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and the deaths from Covid-19.
We have a widespread belief that our government will combat these threats by mounting a credible response. Nineteen years have gone by since 9/11 and the World Trade Center has risen from the ashes. The merits of the government’s response to Covid-19 is debatable, but what has been done to respond to climate change which is now so visible?
Like our West Coast cities that are threatened by fire, dozens of our coastal cities are threatened by the rising seas. Imagine Miami, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Charleston, New York, New Haven, Boston, San Diego, Seattle, Houston, New Orleans and Galveston coming under attack simultaneously.
Our response would be instantaneous. But our politicians aren’t treating the consequences of the warming climate as the war we need to win.
Florida is particularly susceptible to global warming and we are already suffering from its effects. Our reefs are dying and our cities are already experiencing flooding from rising sea levels.
The first six months of 2020 were the hottest such period on record in Florida. We are experiencing billions of dollars in losses due to intensifying storms.
Because of the intense heat, we are using more air conditioning and power companies are having to import natural gas and electricity from other states.
Mathew Hauer, a sociologist at Florida State University, first began his work on climate-induced relocation in the U.S. in 2011. According to him, Orlando is growing because of an influx of climate migrants from the Caribbean, but “Miami could see huge (population) losses; Florida could lose 2.5 million residents, the most of any state” because of rising seas.
Florida does have an energy plan, but it is one of the weakest in the nation. It lacks a commitment to fully control carbon dioxide emissions within a generation. Our Public Service Commission edits and approves each utility’s 10-year plan instead of designing and mandating a plan for the utilities. It needs to take charge.
Florida agriculture produces an enormous amount of waste that could be treated to generate clean renewable gases or even jet fuel. These projects will create jobs in Florida instead of paying to employ workers in the natural gas producing states.
We need to be emission-free by 2050, which means our 15 million cars must run on renewable fuel and our electrical generation must be at least 90% renewable by then. We need legislation to mandate no more sales of internal combustion engine vehicles by 2040 and have 3 million electric vehicles on the road by 2030. Infrastructure and inducements for heavier trucks running on batteries and hydrogen need to be created.
Our national and state leaders must treat climate change as if it were an invading army. We armed the Taliban with disastrous results and now we have weaponized Mother Nature. Here in Florida our governor and legislators need to enact policies to protect us from the damage the warming climate will bring about. Our nation as a whole must join us in these efforts.
Dr. Claude Gerstle of Delray Beach is a member of Citizens’ Climate Lobby, the MIT Alumni Club of Palm Beach, MIT Alumni for Climate Action and the Climate Reality Project.
“The Invading Sea” is the opinion arm of the Florida Climate Reporting Network, a collaborative of news organizations across the state focusing on the threats posed by the warming climate.