Change in weather patterns need attention

The following editorial was published in The Daily Sun on Nov 27, 2023.

OUR POSITION: No matter your politics, it’s difficult to deny our weather patterns are changing and it’s not a temporary problem.

Floridians don’t really need scientists and research reports to tell us our weather is changing — and getting warmer.

Seemingly endless summer temperatures well into the high 80s and 90s (with plenty of humidity), hot water in the Gulf of Mexico threatening coral reefs and marine life, drought conditions and larger, more extreme tropical storms and hurricanes are not the things of scientific reports or Hollywood disaster movie plots.

They are realities for us in Florida — regardless of the partisan politics associated with climate change.

But one of those reports — the new 2023 National Climate Assessment — drives home changes with the weather and what we could be facing down the road.

Whether you want to call it climate change or not, the report’s sections on the Caribbean and Southeastern U.S. confirm what our eyes (and air conditioning bills) tell us about the weather.

“The Southeast and Caribbean are exceptionally vulnerable to sea level rise, extreme heat events, hurricanes, and decreased water availability,” reads the report written by U.S. government and university researchers.

The report expects “significant increases in the number of hot days (95 degrees or above) and fewer colder days.” We’ve already been seeing that here in Florida with scores of hot days and warmer nighttime temperatures.

The new climate report expects uncertainty when it comes to rainfall as well as the hurricane season. We’ve already seen larger, slower moving and more destructive storms in the form of Hurricanes Ian and Idalia impact Florida’s west coast.

“Projections further suggest that warming will cause tropical storms to be fewer in number globally, but stronger in force,” the report reads.

Those monster storms can bring monstrous economic price tags.

Hurricane Ian, which rampaged through southwest Florida, resulted in $115 billion in damage, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Hurricane Idalia, which slammed into Florida’s Big Bend, and brought flooding and beach erosion to coastal areas to the south, caused $20 billion in damage, according to Moody’s.

The storms further exposed deep fault lines in Florida’s property insurance system and challenges faced by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and coastal communities when it comes to securing consensus from property owners related to easements to address beach erosion.

The new weather normal could include stretches of drought conditions followed by bigger storms with bigger (and more destructive) impacts on coastal communities, beaches and Florida’s citrus and agricultural sectors.

Florida’s citrus sector has already been hit hard by Hurricane Ian as well as warmer and drier weather. More of those challenges could be coming to growers and farmers.

Some farmers have already been looking at more heat- and drought-resilient seeds, plants and trees to help evolve and innovate as the weather and climate change.

Along our coasts, we’ve already seen strong hurricanes magnify beach erosion and rising sea levels in Key West and Miami.

“Global sea level rise over the past century averaged approximately eight inches and that rate is expected to accelerate through the end of this century. Portions of the Southeast and Caribbean are highly vulnerable to sea level rise,” the report reads listing Tampa and Miami among the cities potentially facing potential impacts.

You can read the full report here — But, we are all seeing how the weather is changing and getting warmer.

It’s up to us as voters, consumers and Floridians how we want to react to and address those changes in our weather and climate, including their intersections with jobs and the economy.