In a recent report to the Florida Legislature, the Florida Oceans and Coastal Council noted that:
‘It is widely accepted that human activities can impact global climate patterns. While there are legitimate disagreements among scientists on the nature, magnitude and impact of these changes, the potential risks to Florida’s natural resources and our economy compel us to seek a thorough understanding of possible impacts and to provide current and future generations with the information necessary to adjust to them.’
Relative to other coastal states, Florida is particularly vulnerable to sea-level rise and other effects of climate change because of its low topography, high density of residents and infrastructure along the coasts, and strong dependence on coastal and marine ecosystems to support its economy.
Climate-associated changes, including sea-level rise, increased ocean temperatures, altered rainfall and ocean acidification, are expected to have impacts that span all of the coastal and marine sectors of the state. Recent science suggests that some changes, for example sea-level rise, may occur sooner and be of greater magnitude than predicted just a few years ago.
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NOAA Sea Grant and Climate Change:
Helping the Nation Prepare (pdf, 242Kb)
Highlights three crucial roles that Sea Grant plays locally and nationally as coastal communities prepare for the effects of climate change.
Risks to coastal communities are real and they are complex. Infrastructure (roads, bridges, buildings) that were designed to resist storm surges based on historical information may be at considerable risk should relative sea level rise 1 or 2 feet during their service life. Coastal well fields and the associated supply of freshwater for metropolitan areas such as Miami may be impacted by saltwater intrusion if sea level rises just 6 inches or more. In coastal and marine waters the distribution and abundance of fish and other organisms may change with increased water temperature, as may the prevalence of disease in animals such as corals and the occurrence and intensity of toxic algae blooms. Florida’s beautiful coral reefs, which provide critical habitat for fish, lobster and other biota, and which are a prime diving destination, could disappear if there continues to be a significant increase in the acidity of sea water (which is occurring due to increased levels of dissolved carbon dioxide).
In response to these critical issues Florida Sea Grant has created a new program focus area dealing with Climate Change, and is realigning some of its resources to better identify the risk of coastal impacts and the strategies for adaptation.
We are supporting research, education and outreach to:
- create a citizenry that is informed by objective science regarding effects of climate change; and
- help governments make strategic, reasoned and effective decisions to minimize economic, environmental and other impacts of climate change.
This work is happening in collaboration with state and federal agencies and local governments.
See: Climate Change: Impacts and Adaptations. Florida Sea Grant's 2010-13 Strategic Plan Focus Area.
Our strategies related to climate change are:
- We will support research that evaluates policy options for adapting to climate change and sea-level rise, clearly identifying the benefits of considering climate change in coastal planning as well as costs of strategic retreat performed now vs. in the future.
- We will support research that leads to an increased understanding of how man-made physical alterations, including seawalls, dredging and ground water depletion, may interact with sea-level rise to affect coastal ecosystems and the services they provide to society.
- We will engage scientists and resource managers in prioritizing the additional research, education and outreach that is needed to address linkages between human actions, ecosystems and climate-related changes along the Florida coast.
Education and Outreach
- We will develop education and outreach programs to improve knowledge about climate change across generations and cultures, and facilitate the transfer of knowledge from scientists to extension agents, resource managers, planners and decision makers.
- We will work with coastal communities in the development of policies and actions to adapt to climate change, using science-based information and outreach to support improved understanding and responsible allocation of resources in an effective manner and priority.
- We will work with state and federal agencies to incorporate climate change and future coastal development scenarios into coastal hazards mapping.
Ongoing Projects Include:
- Partnering with the U.S. Geological Survey and the Florida Center for Environmental Studies to provide information to water managers on how climate change may affect future water in south Florida.
- A Gulf of Mexico regional research project, funded jointly by the Sea Grant programs of Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi-Alabama and Texas, and the US Geological Survey, will analyze the takings laws that local planners and regulators must deal with in implementing adaptive management and planning techniques to counter sea-level rise and other hazards associated with climate change. The project aims to develop novel planning and mitigation tools to help communities address these legal and policy issues.
- A Gulf of Mexico regional research project, funded jointly by the same partners, will quantify the potential impact of sea-level rise on hurricane-induced economic and social damage around the Gulf coast.
- A Gulf of Mexico Community of Practice. This outreach project will provide extension, education and outreach (EOE) experts with consistent current information regarding expected rate of sea-level rise in the Gulf, anticipated impacts to natural resources and the built environment, and community adaptation strategies. Participants in this project will increase their competency in communicating risk and using community-based social marketing techniques. The project will establish a long-term community of practice in the Gulf so that EOE experts from local, state and federal levels can maintain dialogue and information exchange regarding adaptation of coastal communities to sea-level rise. This is a cooperative project of the Gulf of Mexico Sea Grant programs and several NOAA units.
- Legal professionals from Florida Sea Grant / UF Levin College of Law are working with the City of Punta Gorda and state and federal partners to develop policies that the city might incorporate into its comprehensive plan to facilitate adaptation to sea-level rise. This work is being done as part of the EPA Climate Ready Estuary Program.
Additional Sources of Information on Climate Change
Governor’s Action Team: http://www.dep.state.fl.us/climatechange/team/default.htm
Florida Oceans and Coastal Council: http://www.floridaoceanscouncil.org/
National and International
National Academy of Sciences 2012 Report
NOAA Climate Services ‘Climate Watch’: http://www.climatewatch.noaa.gov/
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 2007 Report: http://www.ipcc.ch/
United Nations Environment Program Climate Change Science Compendium: http://www.unep.org/compendium2009/