Shame on our national and state authorities for a lack of leadership in the face of climate change. It is phenomenon now taking place.
Read the original article here in the Gainesville Sun.
Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.
-A river is like a life: once taken, it cannot be brought back-
Susan Nugent: Don’t wait for another disaster to pass climate policy
Scientists have known about climate change for many years. The fossil fuel industry even acknowledges knowing the effects of their continued drilling for decades. Politicians have denied the evidence of a changing climate and failed to enact a climate policy.
The U.S. Department of Defense revealed in 2014 that climate change “will likely lead to food and water shortages, pandemic disease, disputes over refugees and resources, and destruction by natural disasters in regions across the globe.” We have seen proof of each claim: water shortages in Africa; food shortages in Chile; epidemic disease in the form of Zika in Puerto Rico and Florida; disputes over refugees and immigrants separated from their children; disagreements over resources such as the state of Florida suing Georgia for its overuse of water that should be pouring into Appalachicola Bay; and destruction by natural disasters in Puerto Rico, Houston and the Florida Keys, as well as around the globe.
Heat records are being broken throughout the world, in China, Europe, Iraq, Pakistan and elsewhere. About 125 people died in Japan’s heat wave from May to July 2018. There, 57,000 people went to the hospital because of the heat. Chino, near Los Angeles, reached a high temperature of 120 degrees on July 6.
The increased heat brings drought. In the western United States, lack of rain along with increased heat has led to more and more wildfires. Snow melts sooner in the spring, leading to less water during the really hot periods.
Similarly, ocean temperatures are also rising. This increase in temperature caused hurricanes with record flooding during 2017 season. The term “rain bomb” describes the intense bursts of rain that raise rivers quickly, rush violently down streets of cities and overwhelm drainage systems seemingly immediately.
In Florida, these increased ocean temperatures have intensified both red tide and green algae. Preventing problems requires less money and results in fewer disasters for citizens than does rushing in to declare an emergency after the catastrophe has transpired.
Hotels and other business owners, along with most people near the coast from Sarasota to Naples, have been affected by pollutants creating disaster. Lives have been disrupted, businesses have lost customers and their economic prospects will continue to diminish.
Instead of bailing people out for complications after the crisis, an intelligent approach would be to tackle the causes of the problem before a disaster happens. Florida has known about red tide and its causes for decades. Solve the problem. Don’t throw cash at businesses after the fact.
The stories also show devastation. My friend who lives on Pine Island posted on Facebook, “Dead dolphins are appearing in my neighborhood. I CAN’T STOP CRYING!!!” Another acquaintance who lives five miles from the ocean reported the stench required them to wear masks despite the distance. Another friend attending a medical conference reported people had irritated throats and stayed far from the beach. White fish bellies floated as far as she could see.
As Florida’s governor, Rick Scott cut funding for red tide research with detrimental disregard of our environment. Had he concerned himself with the nutrients pouring into our waterways, flowing into the ocean and raising chances of red tide, especially in warmer ocean waters, we would not be facing as extreme an emergency. His water management decisions served industrial agriculture, not the citizens.
Florida’s coastal communities will not recover for years. Next season’s tourists will book elsewhere, since the Florida coast will no longer be inviting. After an earthquake in Mexico City, people stopped visiting Yucatan, even though Yucatan is far removed from the scene and was untouched by the earthquake.
The effect of Scott’s choice will haunt Floridians for many years. This one governor’s failure to act illustrates the many changes our world will see if we refuse to take action on climate change.
Yes, climate change is happening and the United States fails to be proactive. FEMA’s expenses alone give us just an inkling of the amount of money we spend to restore what we lose to rising waters, ferocious winds and rain bombs. Yes, we had hurricanes before. But the frequency and severity of these storms has increased along with our rising temperatures.
What politician will lead the country in shepherding a climate policy through Congress? Will we elect that candidate?
Susan Nugent is a Climate Reality Project leader from Gainesville.