Economic Yearbook 2007 - Global Warming
Can Florida become a model for how U.S. states adapt to climate change?
But whether because of political shifts or the handwriting on the seawalls, Florida finally appears to be taking climate change more seriously. The Century Commission, the Cabinet, Florida's new Energy Commission, the Senate's utility and natural resources committees and Gov. Charlie Crist all seem to be putting global warming on their agendas in meaningful ways. The Natural Resources Defense Council's Susan Glickman told the St. Petersburg Times that between last year and now, "it feels like 10 years have passed in terms of level of interest and understanding."
The Legislature is considering steps this session toward what Mulkey and other scientists say is the most important first step: Cutting the greenhouse gas emissions that lead to global warming. Proposals include forced emissions reductions and approval of up to $100-million in alternative energy funding. (Driving the discussion as much as climate change: Curtailing Florida's dependence on foreign oil.)
Perhaps most interesting, the Century Commission is pushing the idea that Florida not only mitigate the impacts of climate change, but become a model for how to adapt. "We really believe this is a place where Florida can become a national leader," says Steve Seibert, executive director of the commission.
Terry Tamminen, climate change adviser to California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who met with the commission and Crist in February, suggests Florida could lead the way in areas such as:
» Demonstrating the potential for carbon sequestration -- the idea of storing CO2 long-term underground to reduce its buildup in the atmosphere -- on state-owned lands and in saline aquifers. Scientists say underground geologic formations could store trillions of tons of CO2, and some believe this is the most promising possibility for reducing emissions. But research is needed to make sure the carbon stays put and doesn't cause problems underground;
» Developing response plans for impacts to marine ecosystems such as dying coral reefs;
» Taking the lead role in building a greenhouse gas trading system for the Southeastern U.S.;
» Research and development. Governors from five Western states agreed last month to begin working together to reduce greenhouse gases, saying their region has suffered some of the worst of global warming with recent droughts and severe wildfires. Florida, having suffered through droughts and wildfires as well as severe weather that may be related to climate change, needs a much greater effort to quantify and begin mapping impacts, Mulkey says. Particularly urgent: Mapping precisely how the seas will rise. Another Century Commission project, under way among the state, UF and Florida State University, may be the vehicle. The project is known as CLIP: Critical Lands/Waters Identification Project.
"We need more data," Mulkey says, "and we need it quickly."