By John Burr, Resilient Jax
Let’s face facts: We’ve blown it.
The earth’s climate is heating rapidly, sea levels are rising faster, extreme weather is becoming routine, weather patterns are shifting, bringing floods and droughts and wildfires across the world with accelerating frequency.
Our political and business leaders have frittered away decades, engaged instead in denial and self-interest. People have trusted these leaders to act responsibly, but they have largely ignored and obfuscated the hard truth of climate change. We all should have been more aware and active, but we were not.
Where does that leave us? It’s simple – and very difficult.
We have to phase out fossil fuels fast, to prevent some of the future damage that will come if we continue on our reckless path. Scientists say that more damage from climate change has been baked in, what we need to do now is prevent killing the planet.
“We have zero years before climate and ecological breakdown, because it’s already here. We have zero years left to procrastinate,” wrote Peter Kalmus, a climate scientist for NASA in a recent article in The Guardian. “The longer we wait to act, the worse the floods, fires, droughts, famines and heatwaves will get.”
A new U.N. climate report documents just how close to the edge of climate disaster we have tottered. The report, by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change stresses the urgent need to cut carbon emissions quickly to avoid the most dire impacts of climate warming.
Florida is one of the front lines of a multi-theater global war versus climate change. We’re too hot, too wet, too low to the ocean and we attract hurricanes like a magnet.
Those are the natural problems. There’s not much we can do to cool off the state or raise its elevation.
The man-made problems are also significant: A willfully ignorant state political leadership that is years behind the curve in recognizing and addressing the climate crisis, and a large apathetic population that isn’t doing enough to shake their representatives awake from their slumbering indifference.
It’s all fine to build seawalls and water pumps and raise roads and buildings – it’s fine and necessary, and we will be building stuff to keep the waters at bay across Florida for the rest of this century and beyond.
But it’s not enough. Until we stop burning gasoline and oil and coal, until we stop feeding the beast carbon dioxide, we are skirting the real work. The political power that runs this state doesn’t believe this, and is actively fighting local governments that want to seek greener alternatives.
That’s where Florida’s people need to come in. As it always is, the first step is to build awareness, and asreaders, you have clearly taken that step.
Now, that awareness needs to spark action, to rouse public opinion, to change Florida’s leaders’ preferred path of half-measures and willful deceit.
Yes, it’s a tall task. Powerful business and political interests will need to be pushed aside or convinced to follow a new path. But it can be done. It needs to be done now. The year is 2021 and we’re out of time.
John Burr was a resident expert on the Jacksonville Special Resiliency Committee and is a steering committee member of Resilient Jax.
“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.