Climate leaders come together to discuss the future of Southwest Florida

Reporter: Elizabeth Biro Writer: Matthew Seaver
Published: Updated:

What’s the future going to look like here in Florida? At the Southwest Florida Climate and Community Initiative Summit, environmental leaders, businesses, and politicians all discussed climate change.

“Florida as a peninsula. A little bit of sea level rise can have a big impact here,” said Noah Valenstein, a presidential fellow at FGCU.

Sea level rise, record-breaking highs, lows, and a category-four hurricane in the last few months are major concerns for the future of the area.

“A heated Gulf of Mexico also supercharges the storms such as Hurricane Ian. We’re seeing this rapid intensification of climate storms,” said Rob Moher, CEO of the Conservancy of Southwest Florida.

“When you have a higher high tide because sea level has risen and you put storm surge on top of that, the capacity to flood and inundate a community becomes even greater,” said Mike Savarese, a professor at the Water School at FGCU.

The Southwest Florida Climate and Community Initiative notes Florida’s sea levels have risen eight inches since 1950. By 2030, it’s predicted to go up another four to five inches.

Valenstein, former head of the Department of Environmental Protection, says there’s no reason to be scared, but we must act now. “Don’t let the sense of urgency bring fear. Make sure you tie it with actionable steps that we can work on together.”

The facts can be daunting. They can instill what’s been called “Climate anxiety,” but looking at a room full of solution-oriented experts brings a sense of hope.

“That was a real breakthrough moment for this region in the last 10 years. We stopped thinking about it as an environmental issue. And we started thinking of it as an economic issue, a health issue, a quality-of-life issue,” said Moher.

An issue to be addressed because we all want to enjoy Southwest Florida for as long as possible.

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