The weather up there

Without reform, Florida will experience their own Texas-sized climate crisis.


photo by Gabriella Herrera

While still a divisive political topic, the problem of climate change is one more and more people are willing to tackle once presented with the evidence.

29 million without boiling water. 4 million without power. Over 70 dead. 

The winter weather that crippled Texas in early February was not just a local story, but part of a disturbing trend of weather crises. 

Beginning with a mass power-outage on Feb. 5 due to a lack of cold-weather preparation in power equipment, a series of harsh winter storms plagued the state of Texas, leaving millions exposed to the cold and without the supplies to stay strong. Food was hard to come by, with grocery stores and food banks alike losing stock and running water becoming a luxury few had. 

Florida has had its own Texas-sized weather problems for years as a result of “climate change,” or the effects human greenhouse emissions have on the climate. While not yet as obvious and deadly, sea levels along Florida’s coast are continuously rising and making a negative impact on the economy. 2020 studies outlined by non-profit investigative organization ProPublica show Florida’s Monroe and Wakulla counties being two of the most at-risk counties in Florida to rising tides. Though it is unclear exactly how many residents will be affected by this, a 2020 article by technology magazine GovTech reports it could be as much as 2% of current property below the high tide line in places like Flagler and Volusia counties. Though 2% sounds like a small number, in reality, the statistics represent the lives of thousands of Floridians. As illustrated by nonprofit organization Sea Level Rise, 3,890 properties along Miami Beach, 4,545 in Saint Petersburg, and 3,205 in Fort Lauderdale will be below sea-level by 2033. 

The agricultural industry has also been threatened by increasing climate change. In a 2018 research paper from the University of Florida, flooding is not the only problem farmers have to fear. Increasingly high temperatures both raises the demand for water and decreases its supply, as more of it is lost to the heat. While it may be hard to conceptualize now, while stores are still stocked to the brim with meat and vegetables, the dwindling water supply could result in decreased sources of food and potentially a food scarcity, increasing prices for everyone. 

Florida’s economy could be in ruins from climate change and in need of major–and costly–government assistance. The South Florida Climate Compact found that, if left unchecked, the damage caused by climate change could be worth $38 billion by 2070. Though taxes may not seem like a problem for many students now, if they continue to ignore the problem the expense will come out of their accounts. 

At its worst, climate change ignorance turns deadly. In the ProPublica study, Florida’s three most at-risk counties– Flagler, Volusia, and St. Johns– will experience between 5-8 weeks of temperatures above 95० F by 2040. These dangerous days will result in frequent heatstroke and even death, as people are not capable of lasting more than a few hours outside during days without overheating.

This deadly dilemma will create problems for every Floridian, but especially for the thousands of workers who work outside. From the construction workers building homes to the street vendors selling food, these people will be hit the hardest. It is not fair for them to have to either suffer from health risks or be forced to lose a day (or potentially longer) of living wages that go towards their clothes, food, and medical bills. For the security of this portion of working Americans, the working class and their employers alike should be standing together against the atmosphere that could bring them to this point. In an economy with 2.6 million households living paycheck to paycheck as of 2018, it is not fair to ask workers to choose between their jobs and their lives. 

With these blatant economic and environmental risks, it comes as a shock just how many people are ignorant of the effects of the climate crisis. According to the Pew Research Center’s 2020 statistics, 37% of Americans are either uncertain or against climate change reform, generally considering it too risky for the economy. However, these concerns only reflect a sort of uneducated arrogance, as just ten minutes of research can illustrate all the previous arguments and more. The longer Floridians wait to enact environmental regulations, the more strict and expensive they will become. While there is no current estimate on how much each taxpayer will have to pay, all studies show it will be billions in total.  It helps both the economy and the environment more to stop climate change now while it is still possible. 

Thankfully, some legislatures are aware of this reality. Nicole Fried, the Florida Commissioner of Agriculture, pushes for collaboration with local governments on preventing the rise of sea levels and encouraging corporations to establish adaptation plans, as outlined in the Florida Energy and Climate Plan. While these steps may not fix every problem, they will certainly curve the majority of the potential long-term obstacles. Fried has supported funding for Florida-specific researchers to stay on top of any unforeseen predicaments before they happen as they are now. 

It’s been a month since Texas’s power went out, and Florida could be next to experience the consequences of unchecked human emissions. If government officials and citizens do not act fast, Florida could very likely be the next state to face a major climate storm. 

Climate Change Timeline by Gabriella Herrera