Climate Change Conference in Tampa - Day 3

05/11/07 Seán Kinane
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 WMNF News has reported this week on a Climate Change Conference that concluded today in Tampa. The conference brought together scientists, environmentalists, and policy makers to discuss the unique issues of climate change in Florida and to make recommendations to present to the state’s Century Commission for a Sustainable Florida. WMNF’s Seán Kinane reports. 


State Senator Michael Bennett, a Republican from Bradenton, addressed the conference on how responding to climate change will be built into Florida’s Future. Senator Bennett recounted how he convinced Republican State Senator Carey Baker, a climate change denier, to vote for a bill reducing emissions.



“If they’re right, and we do nothing. What happens? And if they’re wrong and we still clean it up, what’s the worst that happens? We have cleaner air to breathe, and your children and their children and the rest of it. We have cleaner water to drink. We do protect the coastal lands.  So what’s the worst-case scenario? Why don’t we just go ahead and do something anyhow, just ‘cause it’s the right thing to do? Believe it or not, I actually got Carey to vote for the bill.”


 Senator Bennett emphasized the difference between the price of paying for the changes necessary to control climate change and the non-monetary costs associated with doing nothing.



“Most people don’t recognize the difference between price and cost. The price is another penny per kilowatt. The cost of not doing it is some kid dying in Iraq. The cost of not doing it is the air that you can’t breathe and the water that you can’t drink. That’s the cost … ‘Folks, this may cost you another penny per kilowatt-hour.’ But that’s what it’s going to take in the State of Florida. … ”



The participants in this Climate Change Conference will present their recommendations on how Florida should deal with climate change to the Century Commission for a Sustainable Florida, a committee that is working on long-term solutions to problems facing Florida. Three discussion groups met to come up with recommendations; the groups dealt with Environmental, Social, and Economic issues surrounding climate change. 


 Ana Puszkin-Chevlin is a Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Urban and Environmental Solutions at Florida Atlantic University. She presented the recommendations regarding disaster preparedness made by the group focusing on Social issues. She said that climate change must be included in every component of comprehensive plans; Florida must acquire vulnerable land; and relocate development away from the coastline as sea levels rise.



“We need to include climate change in every component of comprehensive plan. … We have to think of a policy for strategic relocation or retreat of assets on the coast. Everything can’t be saved. We don’t have the budget to save everything. So some kind of policy will have to be created to decide as a community and as a state: what will be saved, where will we protect our assets, and what will we give up to the sea. And that’s not an easy discussion to have.”


 Some other social issues relating to climate change that were recommended to the Century Commission dealt with smart growth, net metering (where alternative energy producers get a fair price for selling energy back to the grid), mass transportation, water conservation, and education.


 Christopher Walker is the U.S. Director of The Climate Group. He said that carbon must have a price in order to achieve 80% reductions in greenhouse gasses that are necessary to keep climate change moderate. The cost might be around 50 dollars per ton of carbon emitted. But this should not negatively affect the economy.



“Universally we’ve found, and we’ve reviewed something like 2000 companies, we haven’t found a single company that’s been harmed by reducing their emissions. In fact, the efficiency gains, etc. have far exceeded the costs that were spent on the reductions. Just some food for thought, it’s not an impossible dream for these companies to deal with this.”


 Florida needs to plan for a climate that is hotter, dryer, has more intense storms and wildfires, and is affected by rising sea levels. Walker described three mitigation initiatives agreed upon by the economic discussion group.



“Prioritize conservation initiatives, step 1. Research carbon sequestration, so postpone any new coal power plants until carbon sequestration is proven. Duplicate the My Safe Florida program with a matching fund, perhaps, called the My Energy Efficient Florida program. Develop an environmental benefits fund. A lot of states have these, they have clean energy funds.”


 The Environmental discussion group came up with 34 recommendations that were grouped into three tiers. Some of the first-tier suggestions, among those that participants felt were the most important, include growth management and establishment of greenways for migrating communities and ecosystems.



ACT Environmental


 In addition to presenting to Century Commission, the proceedings of the conference will be published as a book, as Tom Crisman, the Patel professor of environment at the University of South Florida, explains



“Hopefully in the next six months, where we stand on Florida climate will be in one book, and you can use that as kind of the guide book.”


 The Climate Change Conference website will include their recommendations to the Century Commission for a Sustainable Florida. It can be found at .


 For WMNF News, I’m Sean Kinane




 Century Commission for a Sustainable Florida  

Sen. Mike Bennett  

Sen. Carey Baker


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