Florida and Climate Change: The Costs of Not Acting

This post is by Gerald Karnas, Florida Climate Project Director at Environmental Defense.

Florida stands to lose big-time unless Congress enacts strong climate legislation, soon. The longer Congress delays, the harder climate change will hit Floridians. Damage to just three sectors—tourism, electric utilities, and real estate—together with hurricane damage would shrink the state’s gross domestic product by more than 5 percent by the end of this century.

That’s the key conclusion of a new report by Tufts University economists. Environmental Defense commissioned the report and is helping to launch it today via a press conference in Tallahassee.

The report, “Florida and Climate Change: The Costs of Inaction” compares two scenarios: a rapid stabilization case and a pessimistic business-as-usual case. These scenarios represent what will happen if the world succeeds in cutting the pollution that causes global warming, versus what will happen if we do very little. The analysis focuses on direct economic impacts. It doesn’t even begin to reflect the human and environmental damage that would also result – damage that may well outstrip the dollar costs.

This report complements a study released last month by the University of Maryland. The Maryland study was national, and this Tufts study “drills down” and provides a lot more detail on potential effects specific to Florida.

Under the business-as-usual scenario, sea-level rise is projected to reach 23 inches by 2050, and 45 inches by 2100. That would flood the land where almost one-tenth of Florida’s current population, or 1.5 million people, lives. Tourism, one of Florida’s largest economic sectors, will be the hardest hit as much of the state’s natural beauty—sandy beaches, the Everglades and the Keys—disappears under the waves. The vulnerable zone also includes key infrastructure, including two nuclear power plants, three prisons, 68 hospitals, 74 airports, 334 public schools, and nearly 20,000 historic structures.

When people argue against strong action to combat climate change, they often implicitly assume that inaction would be cost-free—that we can chose a future that looks much like today, even if we let emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases grow unchecked. But the overwhelming scientific consensus now holds that this rosy assumption is simply wrong. The more greenhouse gases are released, the worse the consequences will be.

This new study shows us a future for Florida that we must avoid—and we still can, with swift, strong action.

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  1. mike
    Posted November 29, 2007 at 2:32 am | Permalink

    Perhaps we need to remember what Bob Marley wrote for one of his most famous songs………Emancipate yourself from mental slavery……One of the major hurdles we face to move quickly towards reducing the human contribution to climate change or global warming is a majority consensus that we could be the problem. The debate goes on and on. If we are too believe that time is fleeting for some major solutions we must get out of the debate and begin to focus on implementation.
    I offer some solutions: There is really NO debate as to whether man made air pollution has numerous negative effects. It effects our health and our environment in very negative ways. So, rather than arguing about whether Global Warming is caused by all of our greenhouse emissions why don’t we just decide to clean the air first? If the tons of emissions were significantly reduced and the impact slows warming then we can all look back, declare a winner and move on and if it has no clear effect we all win by breathing better and living in a less polluted world.
    Then there is a solution that gets very little attention. Most focus for reducing emissions deals today with how we deal with capturing the emissions produced rather than reducing the amount being produced. The long term solutions for cleaner fuels obviously will eventually help but if we are too believe that we may not have the time for such implementation then we had better deal more effectively with major solutions for capturing what is already being produced.
    I have been working with such a solution for many years and I believe that it is the most cost effective way to significantly reduce ALL harmful emissions from fuel combustion and greatly reduce consumption at the same time.
    This solution was actually developed many years ago as a way to improve combustion efficiency. It is a pure high molecular weight hydrocarbon polymer called polyisobutylene..PIB. When mixed at very low concentrations with hydrocarbon fuels it physically alters the fuel hydrocarbons leading to a much more efficient combustions…..less heat, less unburned fuel and less emissions including PM and NOX. Less fuel required to do the same amount of work is the icing on the cake.
    What about the cost? Less than $0.03 to treat a gallon.
    Because it is a pure hydrocarbon there are no negative effects on the environment. The FDA actually lists PIB as a food grade additive found in chewing gum and many other products. You can actually find it today in many fuel blends as a keep clean additive (a detergent).
    For those who are looking for some quick fixes consider that PIB is already being manufactured and blended with refinery diesel fuel right now. Millions of gallons have already succesfully been treated to accomplish needed emission reductions.
    If PIB was found in all the diesel fuel tomorrow the reduced tons of total emissions would be staggering. There is just absolutely no reason that such a cost effective already proven and working solution such as this should not be high on our list as a solution available today.
    Mike Anfinson, Ph.D.

  2. Posted December 12, 2007 at 5:51 pm | Permalink

    I talked to one of our experts here about this. She says:

    “Other additives used to reduce emissions or improve fuel efficiency (i.e. MTBE, PuriNOx) have proved to be either troublesome or economically unfeasible. Everything is worth exploring and considering but with caution and scrutiny.”

  3. Posted January 28, 2010 at 6:15 am | Permalink

    The blog doesn’t load correctly under Ie6. I think there is a problem with CSS.