In 1987, Time magazine published an in-depth story about global warming, describing how coastal cities would be affected by the melting of the polar icecaps. The report discussed the impending doom vulnerable coastline states, such as Florida, could face under a drastic climate change.
Nearly 20 years later, in an attempt to curtail potential causes to a global climate change, representatives from various groups across the state met at the Renaissance Hotel at International Plaza last week to discuss the current state of Florida’s ecosystem.
The conference, which was the first held for Florida, was sponsored by the Dr. Kiran Patel Center for Global Solutions at USF and Florida Atlantic University.
“We truly are the epicenter for natural disasters here in Florida,” said Frank Brogan, president of FAU. “Right now, it is critical that we begin to move forward and multiply the solutions because you and I all know there is no one answer. This is a multi-faceted problem and therefore there will be a multi-faceted set of solutions.”
Executive Director for the Patel Center Betty Castor was among four welcome facilitators and said global warming is very much a generational issue.
“Young people are making the points to parents; and parents, CEO’s, politicians and those of us in the public sector, we are running to catch up to what younger generations understand,” Castor said.
The conference organizers plan to present various environmental, social and economic objectives on climate change to the Century Commission for a Sustainable Florida, a council that considers laws and regulations to be presented to the state legislature. Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink was the first of the keynote speakers invited to speak at the conference.
“It is time for Florida to move from the sidelines,” Sink said. “We are the most vulnerable state to climate change.”
Sink said Gov. Charlie Crist plans to hold a climate conference in early July that will join Florida with 30 other states that have placed moratoriums to track and assess greenhouse gas emissions.
Even though many states have been hesitant to devote legislative time and funding to climate change, numerous mayors have signed the Mayors Climate Protection Agreement. Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio is one of 413 mayors who have signed the initiative that commits to reducing global warming by placing larger funds to departments such as mass transit and recycling. Iorio was scheduled to speak but was unable to attend.
Former United States Ambassador Richard Benedict blasted the current legislation’s lack of commitment to dealing with climate change, saying “60 million Americans are doing more while the legislation is sleeping.”
Benedict was a chief U.S. negotiator on the historic Montreal Protocol in the 70s when it was learned that Chlorofluorocarbons, or CFC’s, were depleting the ozone.
“Who are these guys in Washington who call themselves conservatives but act like radicals,” Benedict said. “Narrow-minded ideologues have turned environmental protection into a naughty word. Catering to short-term commercial interests, land developers – big coal, big oil, big automakers it sometimes seems to me that their idea of wide-open spaces are shopping mall parking lots on Sunday night.”
The three-day conference held various lectures that ranged from water resource management and coral bleaching, to incorporating climate change in infrastructure design. Kevin Rosseel, a representative for the Environmental Protection Agency Climate Protection Partnership, said there is no single initiative that can be presented to analyze, communicate and educate on climate change.
“There is no silver bullet, but a silver buckshot, and that’s why we have so many initiatives,” said Rosseel.
The EPA has set a goal to reduce greenhouse gas intensity 18 percent by 2012, according to Rosseel.
State Senator Michael Bennett from District 21 was the closing keynote speaker. Bennett has chaired various environmental councils such as the Southern Legislative Conference’s Energy and Environmental Committee, as well as the Boating Advisory Council, and is considered a consistent advocate of climate policy. He stressed the importance of having climate conferences and a governor like Charlie Crist who is willing to devote legislative attention to global warming.
“If we don’t start thinking outside the box, we’re going to be in the same box five years from now,” Bennett said.