Climate change adaptation is not a priority for U.S. President Donald Trump and company. Meanwhile, the planet’s atmosphere is still flush with greenhouse gas emissions and the effects of climate change are being felt.
While the Trump administration denies climate change and rolls back the Obama administration’s environmental protections, some members of Congress are taking action. The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation will conduct a committee field hearing on climate change this Monday, April 10 in West Palm Beach, Florida where Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort is located. The hearing titled “Extreme Weather and Coastal Flooding: What is Happening Now, What is the Future Risk, and What Can We Do About It” is being lead by Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), the ranking member of the Committee.
The hearing will “examine the impacts of sea level rise and extreme weather events,” the Committee states on its website. A discussion “on the economic impacts of extreme weather and coastal flooding to communities, as well as future risks and efforts to address the problems” will be lead by Sen. Nelson. The hearing will feature witnesses that include various experts on the impacts of extreme weather such as Dr. Leonard Berry, PhD, Emeritus Professor of Geosciences at Florida Atlantic University; and Vice President of Government Programs at Coastal Risk Consulting, LLC.
“Sea level rise and coastal flooding driven by climate change pose real, significant risks to our residents and should not be politicized,” said Republican Palm Beach County Commissioner Steven Abrams in a statement. “At the same time, this challenge presents Palm Beach with the opportunity to be the Silicon Valley of adaptation. To do so, we need to face this threat head-on by putting in-place workable solutions that keep our homes and businesses above water.”
“Extreme weather and destructive flooding along Florida’s coast is one of the most visible manifestations of a changing climate,” said Christina DeConcini, Director of Government Affairs, World Resources Institute in a statement.
Florida is on the front lines of climate change
The committee pinpoints something interesting: sea level rise in southeast Florida. Southeast Florida has seen sea level rise triple since 2006, “averaging about nine millimeters a year,” according to the hearing announcement. Sea level rise has impacted southeast Florida with coastal flooding, saltwater intrusion, storm surge, and land erosion.
“Sea-level rise is as clear a signal of climate change as increasing carbon dioxide concentrations and global temperature trends,” proclaimed a 2010 report by the Florida Oceans and Coastal Council (FOCC). Florida’s infrastructure is not currently able to withstand the sea level rise that climate change is bringing. Tidal floods are even a given in some Miami neighborhoods. As the report stated seven years ago, “Virtually none of Florida’s infrastructure was built to accommodate significant sea-level rise.” To accommodate sea level rise, most of coastal Florida’s infrastructure will need to be either replaced or improved.
Four county governments in southeast Florida responded to the impacts of sea level rise by creating the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact in January 2010. The four counties (Broward, Miami-Dade, Monroe, and Palm Beach Counties) have a combined population of 5.6 million. Former President Obama said of the compact that “its become a model not just for the country, but for the world.” And the compact does serve as a model of regional climate change action.
Southeast Florida is not the only region in the U.S. that will be impacted by climate change. Every region will be affected in some way and that makes the hearing by the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation one of the most important upcoming congressional hearings. The Trump administration will likely keep on denying climate change, but there are congressional members who not only believe it is occurring but think we need to study its potential effects.
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