Scientists, engineers gather for 2022 SWFL Climate Summit in Fort Myers

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Southwest Florida mangrove. Credit: WINK News

Scientists, lawyers and engineers gathered at the 2022 Southwest Florida Climate Summit in downtown Fort Myers on Thursday to learn more about how to protect our beautiful area and wildlife.

The purpose of the summit is to inform and engage community members on what they can do to be better prepared for future events like hurricanes, sea-level rise and climate change.

Jennifer Hecker, the executive director for Coastal and Heartland National Estuary Partnership, says some of the topics that will be discussed at the summit include the science behind water and wetland impacts, and how people can make those wetlands and water resources more resilient. She hopes community members leave the summit knowing how they can prepare themselves, their families and communities for the impacts of climate change.

What you see on the left in the photo above is Naples in 1940. On right, the same city in 2021. A lot has happened in those 81 years. Chief among them, a lot of people moved to the area.

“We estimate there’s about 1.2 million people that live in the lower west coast region. This was projected to increase about 36% between 2020 to 2045,” said a presenter for the South Florida Water Management District.

All those people need water. The South Florida Water Management District put a presentation together to show how Southwest Florida could attack the effects of climate change on our drinking water and what we can do to protect it.

“This is happening right now. So there is some urgency, we need to double down and really get serious,” said Hecker.

“That responsibility falls within the local folks, water management districts and the state,” said a presenter for the South Florida Water Management District.

“You know better than most that restoration is essential to preserve Southwest Florida’s drinking water and improve our state’s climate resilience,” said Florida Senator Marco Rubio.

Rubio opened the 2022 climate summit by telling everyone in attendance, and participating on zoom, that he is on top of the issue. He said he is working on several ideas with members of congress.

“We start out with a lot of work to do. I look forward to continuing this work side by side with you to ensure that Florida waters ecosystems and communities remain strong for generations to come,” said Rubio.

Senator Rubio said his bill to restore coral reefs passed through the committee. The measure would allocate more money toward coral restoration, which will help improve the climate resilience of Florida’s coastal communities.

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