Ten Takeaways from the Climate Adaptation Center’s CEO, Bob Bunting
Editors note: This is the second of three presenter’s perspectives on the 2021 Florida Climate Forecast Conference. Each perspective summarizes the presenter’s “Ten Takeaway Messages” from the conference. This perspective was penned by Bob Bunting, the founder and CEO of the Climate Adaptation Center. During the Sarasota conference, Bob gave the Florida perspective on global-scale climate warming, followed by Florida-specific climate forecasts for 2030, 2040 and 2050. His “ten takeaways” from the conference are listed below. You can view Bob’s climate forecast presentations, and the rest of the conference, on the Climate Adaptation Center’s YouTube channel.
Takeaway Message One: The increase in extreme events, from floods to downpours and from frequent Red Tides to more dangerous hurricanes, is a result not only of the 2.2°F rise in global average temperature, but also of the doubling of the rate of warming since 1990.
Takeaway Message Two: Florida’s west coast faces a triple threat of flooding in the next few decades.
Threat 1: Rising sea levels — already 9 inches higher than 1950 and rising 10-11 inches more by 2050.
Threat 2: Sea level rise will be magnified in the 2030s by the “moon wobble” that will accelerate SLR and bring surprising amounts of flooding to low lying areas of Florida, especially those less than 3 ft above mean sea level.
Threat 3: A slowing jet stream suggests the paths of hurricanes may shift eastward from their climatological mean paths in the Gulf, bringing storms closer to our area with potentially serious results.
Takeaway Message Three: Warmer sea temperatures will mean storms can rapidly intensify from a tropical storm stage to a major hurricane closer to landfall, striking with less warning then we are used to. A different paradigm to protect citizens is needed now.
Takeaway Message Four: From the mid-2030s onward, higher sea levels, combined with stronger, slow moving storms, occurring more often and closer to Florida’s west coast, means more frequent coastal and storm surge flooding. Low lying areas could see flooding 70 days yearly by 2050 from storms and “sunny day” flooding.
Takeaway Message Five: Harmful algae blooms like Red Tide will become more common as Gulf of Mexico water temperatures stay above 60°F in winter, allowing the algae to survive the winter cold season.
Takeaway Message Six: The number of humid days above 95°F will continue to increase from about 10 days a year now to up to 60 days by 2050. The dangerous combination of high heat and humidity will take a toll on human health.
Takeaway Message Seven: The cost of climate warming adaptation and mitigation will be high but the cost of not being prepared will be much higher! Infrastructure resilience, new building codes, and moves to cut carbon emissions are needed now to reduce risk, protect our way of life and spur the Climate Economy. It’s time to act!
Takeaway Message Eight: The carbon already in the atmosphere ensures climate warming and sea level rise will go on for a long time no matter what we do. Adaptation and Mitigation is our best choice. By taking that path, an economic boom resulting from the growth of the Climate Economy will be unleashed, helping to change threat into opportunity.
Takeaway Message Nine: To meet the threat and realize the opportunity means governments on all levels will have to work across smaller and larger jurisdictions in a cooperative and “big picture” approach. Planning and funding region-wide mitigation and adaptation actions needs to proceed quickly, from climate infrastructure to new building codes and from Category 5-resistant evacuation centers to dealing with increasing physical and mental health issues.
Takeaway Message Ten: Academic institutions should focus research to speed adaptation and plug holes in scientific understanding, while at the same time building the climate economy workforce needed to implement adaptive solutions. The key will be climate-focused students moving into the private sector and delivering local climate solutions.
Spurred by government planning and funding, enhanced by academia that moves from silo mode into solution mode, and motivated by a private sector inspired by innovation and deep investment, we can keep our Florida way of life. Let’s decide and act now to make the climate threat into a new, profitable economic force built from the ground up!