December 9, 2012


Next steps: implementing Regional Climate Action Plan (Photos)


By Valerie J. Amor




On December 7, 2012, the final afternoon of the 4th. Annual SE Florida Regional Climate Change Leadership Summit in Jupiter, Florida was led by the key note speaker Heidi Cullen, Chief Climatologist for Climate Central. She discussed scientific information in relation to public perception of the issue of climate change and global warming. Explaining that we have two modes of thinking – the experiential system and the analytic system, “We have to engage at the emotional level”.

In general the public’s view on global warming can be summarized in four parts:

It’s real, It’s us, it’s a threat and we can fix it.

Scientifically documented that the earth’s temperature has been rising each decade since 1980, the weather is a contributor to public perception of climate change as well values influencing our perceptions. A survey by Yale/George Mason University released in March 2012 indicated that 61% of the public is cautious to dismissive, only 39% concerned or alarmed.

She cited the work of David Keeling who developed chemical fingerprinting of CO2 #12, CO2 #13 and CO2 #14 which can track and identify which kind of CO2 is in the atmosphere and its source location. With North America experiencing more extreme weather than the rest of the world, 2011 so far has been the worse. The country is heating up with more record highs and less record lows expecting by the end of century it will be a 20 to 1 ratio.

Introducing a probably lesser known phrase “weather autopsy”, scientists can examine and begin to answer the question “… to what extent did climate change make this event more likely?”

Exploring the case study of the 2003 European heat wave, human influence will double the chance of Europe experiencing these summers every other year. By 2100, Florida will experience more than 90 degree days for more than 6 months. Citing that “Florida is in harm’s way” due to sea level rise, we need to invest in our infrastructure. Mayor Bloomberg announced on Friday that NYC will rebuild with climate change in mind. Clearly, there is a need for political leadership addressing these pressing issues.

Steve Almsay, a CNN reporter, compared the National Research Council of the National Academies “America’s Climate Choices” report to a quote by Prof. F. Sherwood Rowland, “What’s the use of having developed a science well enough to make predictions, if in the end, all we’re willing to do is stand around and wait for them to come true!”

The Netherlands through their Delta Plan has decided to build to the 10,000 year flood event.

Before the start of the last and final session before the Mayoral signing of the Climate Action Pledge, Steve Adams announced to thunderous applause that the Compact had just received a $975,000 grant from the Kresge Foundation to implement the Regional Climate Action Plan, a huge step forward from plan to implementation. Congratulations!

“Compact Perspectives” moderated by Jim Murley, SFRPC, discussed what the next steps are for the Compact. As the public officials took turns to speak in regards to their vision for moving the Regional Climate Action Plan forward, Mayor Kristin Jacobs, Broward County began by stressing collaboration and making a commitment to bicycling insuring that FDOT will know that roads are not only for cars anymore. To begin the process to successfully implement the past three years of work by the Compact in creating the Regional Climate Action Plan with its 106 recommendations will require clarity of language and unity emphasizing a “One step at a time” approach.

Mayor Jeri Muoio, West Palm Beach brought up a real concern, “How do we get everyone to buy into these sustainability action plans?”

Commissioner Shelley Vana, Palm Beach County was outspoken and direct. Using as an example the word ”dying” rather than the phrase “passed away” with regards to “ adaptation action areas” and “planned retreat”, "we should not use the passed away words”. Eschewing euphemisms, she encouraged using more direct, plain English to convey the seriousness of the issues at hand stressing that “climate change is science not a matter of faith”.

Mayor Roseanne Minet, Lauderdale-By-the-Sea and the appointed representative of the Compact to the Broward League of Cities, “It is happening in our area…we have to work with our neighbors to work together”, “South Florida is our home”.

Mayor Malti Bower, Miami Beach added that Miami Beach is “distinctly separate with different needs because of their density there”. Knowing that education will be needed to take the next steps, “The Compact is good, we need to work together…our differences are what makes us great”

Mayor George Neugent, Monroe County, “we need a national energy policy” adding that “sea level rise is something that we need to deal with today, tomorrow and in the future”

With Mayor Craig Cates, Key West in attendance, Mayor Jack Seiler of Fort Lauderdale was absent.

The day ended with the Mayor’s Climate Action Pledge Signing Ceremony.

As the summit came to a conclusion, it will be interesting to follow the steps of the Compact in implementing the Regional Climate Action Plan and the challenges it will face. It is hoped that next year, 2013, when the 5th. Annual SE Florida Regional Climate Change Leadership Summit will take place in Broward County, that it selects a location that will be more easily accessed by public transportation rather than a location selected to highlight the recent coastal erosion caused by a storm described as having only touched us with its “fringes”. Hurricane Sandy, according to all the information disseminated during the past two days is but a harbinger of a more challenging future that we must prepare for. With the obvious support of the Kresge Foundation grant and the continuing strength of the Compact to unify this area as a region, it seems almost certain that a clear pathway will allow a region so committed to enduring bringing reality to Ron Sims inspiring words from the previous day.

Meanwhile, on Monday, December 10, at the Beach Community Center, the City of Fort Lauderdale will host a public meeting to begin the discussion of how to address an area of their beach along A1A that has been ravaged by Hurricane Sandy and continues to degrade.