Obama advisor in South Florida: Climate change is ‘the global threat of our time and for the sake of future generations the world has to get together to address this challenge’Posted by Jim at Sunday, June 23, 2013
By David Fleshler
20 June 2013
(Sun Sentinel) – President Obama's top environmental adviser came to Fort Lauderdale Thursday to express the administration's commitment to fighting global warming and protecting the nation from rising sea levels.
The president considers climate change "the global threat of our time and that for the sake of future generations the world has to get together to address this challenge," Nancy Sutley told the Association of Climate Change Officers at the Westin Beach Resort & Spa, about a mile from where pounding waves collapsed part of State Road A1A last year.
At the conference, attended by about 170 government officials, scientists, and consultants, officials talked about the challenging future faced by South Florida, where rising seas will lead to more frequent floods, threats to drinking water and the heavy financial burden of building sea walls, protecting well fields and improving drainage systems.
Jennifer Jurado, director of natural resource planning and management for Broward County, said South Florida is particularly vulnerable because of its flat topography, location on a peninsula, dense coastal development and shallow, porous aquifer.
Current planning in South Florida works from estimates that sea levels will rise by nine to 24 inches by 2060, on top of the nine inches they have gone up in the past century, she said.
Although the most obvious impacts may be along the coast, Jurado said even inland residents would be affected. Water will push up through storm drains connected to the ocean. And as sea levels rise, salt water will continue encroaching on South Florida's underground aquifer, threatening to knock out wells used for drinking water, a process that is well underway.
"The saltwater line has continued to move westward for decades," she said. "We know that sea level rise accelerates its movement."
In the Florida Keys, rising seas threaten endangered species such as the Key deer, whose main island, Big Pine Key, faces a loss of 34 percent of its land to the ocean under the best-case scenario, said Rhonda Haag, sustainability coordinator for Monroe County. Higher sea levels are already affecting heavily developed islands, such as Key West, she said.
"We're seeing more routine flooding, not just at extreme high tides but at regular high tides," she said. [more]