Climate change will cause migration to Alachua County

Faced with bad news, how do you find hope? The proposed answer is “building a community”.

A meeting last month, sponsored by the Interfaith Community of Gainesville, focused on the inevitable impacts of climate change in North Central Florida. The message is that knowing what will happen prepares us to act effectively.

Community members from various segments of our city and county are working together to weather the storm. With science-based information and empathy, we can transition to a fair, carbon-neutral future. But it won’t be easy.

Dr. Harold Wanless, a climatologist with the Department of Geography and Sustainable Development at the University of Miami, spoke at the Shir Shalom Temple in Gainesville. He brought terrible news to attendees of the event, “How rising sea levels in South Florida could drown us in North Florida.”

Yet Wanless’ goal “is to provide a clear future climate reality so that individuals and communities can have realistic hope and can plan what to do individually and collectively to make a difference.” This meeting urged audience participants to continue this conversation.

Wanless’ visit to Gainesville is part of an ongoing climate conversation that began long ago in that community. Barry Jacobson of Solar Impact said he has worked in the solar energy industry since the 1980s. Ellen Siegel, a climate refugee and president of Woodstock Wisdom, organized the event. She and others are more recent participants in the Gainesville Conversation.

Gainesville chapters of organizations such as Citizens’ Climate Lobby, Climate Reality Project, League of Women Voters of Alachua County, Sierra Club, NAACP Environmental Justice and Climate Justice, Environmental Ambassadors and others have joined in this conversation, the advancing. Both the Harn Museum of Art and the Florida Museum of Natural History have featured exhibits focused on climate change, bringing awareness and diverse perspectives to visitors.

A fossil plant demonstration is used to provide lessons about climate change and plant evolution at an Earth Day event at the Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville.

The conversation must continue. Wanless warnings require action. The urgency to discuss, plan and cooperate is here, now. The impacts will affect us all. The community must confront climate impacts and deal with them with solutions that are fair to all.

As Wanless put it, “The problem is that you first have to understand the reality of what lies ahead, the urgency with which adaptations will be needed, and the critical mitigations that need to be addressed.”

When Wanless draws the future, he takes into account many regional influences on sea level rise, such as changing ocean currents and the redistribution of land mass after the ice melts. Therefore, its sea level rise projections are higher than other models.

It provides data showing that in “less than one mortgage cycle” sea level rise will reach three feet based on ice melt alone (one foot has already occurred). At this level, the Western Barrier Islands and the western portion of South Florida Counties will face challenges such as saltwater intrusion, freshwater loss, and infrastructure failure.

After one of the worst royal tide seasons in memory — coupled with accelerating sea level rise — leaders in the Florida Keys, like those in South Florida, are demanding action on climate change.  This area of ​​Key Largo suffered from flooding for almost three months.

Wanless advises that homes below 10 feet in elevation will soon be unsaleable and vulnerable to flooding. For Gainesville and Alachua County, he warns of a huge migration of people. South Floridians will have to move elsewhere. Because our part of the state will not suffer from sea level rise, ours will become a destination for others.

The planning committee for this event did not want to end this gathering with only such dire predictions. Ellen Siegel, former City Commissioner Helen Warren and I, along with input from many others, hoped to inspire the public to share her personal expertise with other audiences. The climate conversation needs to continue with people from all demographics.

Sharing ideas for reducing carbon emissions and suggesting actions to take will help others build resilience while strengthening connections and building community.

More from Susan Nugent:

Take control of our future by switching to clean energy

Climate change produces positive and negative images in Florida, around the world

Protecting trees and promoting biodiversity in yards can help prevent climate change

One question that needs to be answered is, “What needs to be done to keep Gainesville the place you want to live?” A second question, of course, is, “How will each of us contribute to accomplishing this?” »

Business communities, educational communities, faith groups and all levels of government need to address these two issues. We all have a responsibility to make Gainesville a place we enjoy.

With science giving us a glimpse of our future, working cooperatively becomes even more necessary. Realizing how quickly we need to tackle the increasing emissions of fossil fuels into our atmosphere, we need to find equitable solutions.

Susan Nugent

We need to share what we know, keep this conversation going, listen to others, and build a strong, broad, and resilient community together.

Susan Nugent is a manager of the Climate Reality Project in Gainesville.

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