Next Steps on Climate Change: Infrastructure Adaptation

 

Monroe County Commissioners will soon make some bell weather decisions that signal their approach to climate change. The County has joined compacts, attended conferences, hired sustainability coordinators, established committees, and developed plans which embark on the “process.” Eventually, the process moves from planning to action.

Action includes mitigation (reducing the causes of climate change) and adaptation (preparation for the effects). Mitigation efforts began years ago by obtaining grants to purchase hybrid cars, replace light bulbs, retrofit old buildings and replace air conditioning systems. These popular projects reduce ongoing expense and use “other people’s money,” for funding. The county will soon decide if it wants to further reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by ending the practice of burning Monroe County’s yard waste. This may cost a couple of bucks thus not be as popular. However, if atmospheric carbon dioxide is accelerating global warming, then our low elevation county will soon have the opportunity to end a major portion of its contribution.

Unlike mitigation which often yields immediate pay back, adaptation can be expensive and has a longer return on investment. The next step for adaptation in the Keys is openly discussing the possible effects of sea level rise. We don’t know when it will happen or exactly how much we will see, but we can determine where it will first occur. Initially an annoyance to those who realize the damage salt water does to vehicles; deeper puddles will begin to alter travel plans. Not convinced sea level will rise? Then think about adaptation as preparation for hurricane storm surge.

As the umbrella governing entity, Monroe County will soon decide if they want to take the next “adaptation step” by providing a forum for all municipalities and business leaders to identify the parts of their infrastructure that should be evaluated for exposure to sea level rise and the long term cost of doing nothing verses the expense of adaptation.

Will you please take a look at this month’s high tides, think about how you feel about climate change and let county commissioners know how you would like them to proceed? Thanks!

Bill Hunter

Sugarloaf Key

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