Sanibel keeping an eye on water levels as climate change makes the island more vulnerable

Reporter: Stephanie Byrne
Published: Updated:
Photo: Jim Szabo, Sanibel Lighthouse

A new report released Wednesday showed it would be too expensive to protect homes in the Keys as sea levels rise, but how does that apply to our area?

The Keys aren’t the only islands keeping an eye on water levels.

“As sea level rises, that makes areas on Sanibel more vulnerable,” said the island’s Director of Natural Resources, James Evans.

He says Sanibel has taken different steps to protect the island, including creating living shorelines and looking at its beach management plan.

All of this as scientists get a better understanding of what contributes to sea-level rise.

“The new science is showing the ice is actually melting faster there than previously anticipated,” said FGCU Professor of Marine and Earth Science, Dr. Michael Savarese.

“An easy way to think of it is if you put an ice cube out on the kitchen table, it wouldn’t melt immediately,” said Professor of Paleoclimatology at the Water School at FGCU, Dr. Joanne Muller. “It would start to melt and then the melt would become more rapid.”

Some researchers say hope is not lost, but they can’t address sea-level rise and climate change alone.

“Many of the communities here in Southwest Florida are working together to form what’s called the Southwest Florida Regional Compact to address climate change,” said Evans.

A compact here in SWFL would allow different cities and counties to pool together talent and resources to deal with climate change and sea-level rise, creating an opportunity for unity in making our coastline more resilient.

Counties and cities on the East Coast already have a compact to address climate change. Conversations for a SWFL version are expected to continue into 2020.

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