Paying attention to rise is good

By Steve Estes

Monroe County is being called the canary in the coal mine for the rest of the coastal United State when it comes to the effects of global climate change and eventual sea level rise inundation.

It’s an apt description.

If sea level rises just to the minimum of the published expectations, some 12 percent of the land currently above water in the Florida Keys would be either under water or part of an unusable wetland.

If the more moderate projections are real, closer to 25 percent of the coastal areas of the Keys could be suffering from sea level inundation in the next 30 years.

In other words, we have a problem folks.

So it’s a pretty good idea that our elected leadership is taking sea level rise seriously and is working on a climate change action plan that will eventually be rolled into the county’s comprehensive land use plan.

The plan is somewhat devoid of details at the moment, instead approaching the issues with a more broad-brush approach, attempting to lay the foundation for future decisions that can nail down the details.

Just the fact that our leadership understands there is an issue and stays away from the denial mentality that permeates too much of the national and state discussion is a good thing for us.

Many of us won’t live to worry about how high the sea rises. But our children and grandchildren will have to deal with the situation.

One of the primary causes, according to the science, is greenhouse gas emissions. The plan calls for a reduction of those gasses. One of the issues discussed is for a greater efficiency in the delivery of electrical power.

The thought process is that as summers get longer and warmer, the demand for cooling, and thus the peak demand on our electrical distribution system, will get more severe. That demand could cause even more of the occasional power outages we all experience today.

In this, the land of near eternal sunshine, more and more moves toward harnessing solar energy should be a top priority for our elected leadership, including those elected to guide the future actions of Keys Energy Services.

This should create a demand for building regulations that incentivize solar energy. Taking water heaters, stoves and outdoor lighting off the grid will greatly reduce power demands in the years to come. If folks don’t like solar, gas does the same thing.

We’ll need the power for cooling.

Whenever we rebuild roads, they should be raised to a level where sea rise won’t impact them for the expected life of the road.

Shoreside properties should be encouraged to slope their land upwards to account for sea level rise.

Before we begin this years-long process to sewer the rest of the Keys, let’s make sure that we’re putting in lift stations and pumps where sea level rise won’t interfere with expedient operation and maintenance.

Begin work now on finding money to lengthen boat ramps.

This will not be a cheap undertaking. And it is an undertaking we should not have to commence alone.

The state of Florida should make the Keys a test case in mitigation against sea level rise, because, well because we will be first and they can learn valuable lessons from us to use in other, more populous areas.

The federal government should also take a hard look at making us the test case because, well because we will be first and they can learn valuable lessons from us to use in other, more populous areas.

And quite frankly, we can’t do it on our own.

But we’re still glad our elected leadership is paying attention.

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