The Cause

Florida has got a few problems: The seas are rising, the planet is warming, and algae is blooming.

Ice melt in the poles coupled with the slowing of the Gulf Stream have contributed to over 8 inches of sea-level rise since 1950, with predicted rates now as high as one inch every three years.

Much of the state lies on porous limestone; meaning that water can seep right up through the ground, making traditional methods to solve for sea level rise and flooding ineffectual.

According to a 2018 Union of Concerned Scientists report, “Underwater”, residential properties in Florida currently valued at about $26 billion are at risk of chronic flooding by 2045. These homes currently provide almost $350 million in annual property tax revenue (Dahl et al. 2018).

Floridians love the heat, but in Miami the number of days above 90 degrees has increased by 72.5 days since 1970. By 2050 Florida is projected to have over 130 “dangerous” heat days, up from 25 on average. So whats wrong with a few more beach days a year? Hurricanes and storms love the heat too, unfortunately.

According to a 2018 Union of Concerned Scientists report, “Underwater”, residential properties in Florida currently valued at about $26 billion are at risk of chronic flooding by 2045. These homes currently provide almost $350 million in annual property tax revenue (Dahl et al. 2018).

Floridians love the heat, but in Miami the number of days above 90 degrees has increased by 72.5 days since 1970. By 2050 Florida is projected to have over 130 “dangerous” heat days, up from 25 on average. So whats wrong with a few more beach days a year? Hurricanes and storms love the heat too, unfortunately.

In 2018 “Hurricane Michael took millions of residents by surprise, intensifying from a tropical storm to a major hurricane in just two days and leaving little time for preparations,” the New York Times writes. “[P]art of the explanation for the intensification was warmer-than-average waters in the Gulf of Mexico, which in some places was up by 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, or two degrees Celsius.”

So while Hurricanes and Floridians may thrive in the heat, our unique coral reefs do not. NOAA suggests that “Coral reefs in Southeast Florida have an asset value of $8.5 billion, generating $4.4 billion in local sales, $2 billion in local income, and 70,400 fulland part-time jobs” (FKNMS n.d.).

In the absence of emissions reductions, it is estimated that, by 2100, ocean acidification and warming ocean waters could cost Florida $95 billion (in 2017 dollars) in lost recreational benefits associated with coral reefs (EPA 2017).

In 2016 toxic algal blooms led the State Government to declare a state of emergency, and since then the occurrence and severity of the blooms has only increased, with the latest bloom in Biscayne bay in August of 2020 reportedly killing millions of fish and aquatic animals. The causes of these blooms are long-standing, and hotly contested, but the general consensus is that they are caused by a combination of mismanagement of fresh water, and the state’s relaxed environmental regulations, which has failed to regulate or limit run off from big agriculture, developers, and other industries. Meanwhile, the environment, public health, and the economy pay the price. 

The fragile ecosystems of the Florida coastline are one of the areas in the lower 48 most likely to become impacted in the near future by our changing planet and human activity. For many, environmental impact is an “out of sight, out of mind” concept. I hope through my journey I can show the detrimental impacts Florida has already faced, and depict the negative effects that further changing conditions will have on this amazing and at-risk state.

By bringing light to Florida’s unique issues I hope to raise awareness for environmental protection, involvement in stewardship and conservation, and making environmental protection an important factor when involved in civic engagement.

Coasting…for a cause. Because if we enjoy what unspoiled nature has to offer, it’s imperative that we all do our part to save it, while we still can.