This week, world leaders and representatives from some 200 nations are gathering in Paris for the United Nations Climate Change Conference. Their goal is to reach a legally binding, international climate agreement limiting global warming to below two degrees Celsius (36 degrees Fahrenheit). This conference may not be leading the headlines, but deserves special attention from Florida and the Caribbean as two regions most suffering from the shifting climate.
For years, research has shown rising global temperatures. Only last week, the World Meteorological Organization released a report showing the average global temperatures poised to be the warmest on record. The abstraction of average temperature equals to the real world consequences of severe droughts, lethal heat waves, unforeseen floods, and a worrisome food crisis worldwide.
In Florida, this specifically translates to rising sea levels. Just a few weeks ago, South Florida suffered through its share of massive high tides, called “king tide,” which caused flooding on Miami Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Hollywood, Hillsboro and Deerfield Beach.
This year, Jamaica also experienced one of its worst droughts in history, which some serious long-term consequences. Environmentalists also suggest that there are no signs of a return to the country’s once traditional rainy seasons, at least not any time soon.
Although some of the changes in the world’s temperature are due to geographical phenomena, most scientists agree the cause is mainly attributable to human activity. In a recent report, University of Miami researcher Ben Kirtman showed a 95 percent certainty that human activity contributed to increasing global temperatures since the 1950s. Other scientists conducting relevant research agree that human emissions of carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels are increasing global temperatures.
The Jamaican government, aware of the dangers to climate change from fossil fuels, has embarked on policies discouraging nationals from burning trees for fuel, and is encouraging alternative energy sources with increased reliance on wind and solar energy.
Florida has extensive potential to develop wide-scale use of solar energy, but there’s the absence of a statewide policy to have all, or any of, its four utility companies produce energy from solar sources. While this would be a cheaper source of energy for Florida’s energy consumers, it would also combat the growing dangers from climate change.
Unfortunately in Florida, there has been some controversy within state leadership over even using the term “climate change,” with some accompanying apathy about the issue. The average man, woman and child in South Florida seem to either be unaware or care little about climate change. Most likely, relatively few people know they are living in a region that in future years could be seriously affected by floods and devastating storm surges. This apathy need to change.
This year, several conferences and meetings were held in South Florida pertaining to climate change and its implications. However, these meetings involved only a relatively few people. It’s important that a general community educational strategy, starting in the state’s public schools, is implemented, to create general awareness about climate change and the role residents can play in alleviating potential problems.
Hopefully, the current political climate deemphasizing climate change in Florida will give way to sensible planning. Community organizations should also take leadership roles in the cause, as this is a developing community issue, which if carefully coordinated, should effectively overcome political resistance.