By 2100, the global sea-level is projected to rise by 3 feet . While this may sound insignificant, for a state like Florida, which has a low-level coastline, the effects can be devastating on its coastal cities and tourism industry.
With 105 million visitors in 2015 , Florida is one of the top travel destination in the world. And let’s face it, who doesn’t want to spend time on Miami’s South Beach, soaking up the sun, or in the Everglades, exploring the tropical wetlands? But as our planet gets warmer, how will that impact some of America’s top vacation destinations?
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), global warming is caused when carbon dioxide, and other gases, transmit sunlight to Earth’s surface but retain heat that would have otherwise escaped into space (greenhouse effect) . This is particularly problematic for Florida’s tourism for three reasons:
- Health: By 2050, temperatures in Miami are expected to increase between 4.5 and 9°F, with temperatures above 90°F for more than two-thirds of the year. . At these temperatures, the people living and visiting Florida are at an increased risk of heatstroke.
- Rising Sea Levels: The warmer temperatures raise sea levels by expanding ocean water and melting mountain glaciers. But one of the larger issues that Florida faces is with its water management system. According to the National Climate Assessment (NCA), “coastal water control structures that were originally built about 60 years ago at the ends of drainage canals to keep saltwater out and to provide flood protection to urbanized areas along the coast [will now be] threatened by sea level rise .
- Flooding and Beach Erosion: The combination of the rise in the sea level with the potential for heavy rain will lead to flooding in low-lying coastal areas in Florida and thus beach erosion. A study by the Army Corps of Engineers found that Miami will need approximately 23 million cubic yards of beach re-nourishments over the next 50 years to sustain its beaches  after being affected by climate change.
Now that we know what is happening and the effects on Florida’s tourism industry, let’s turn to what Florida is doing to combat this issue.
While some of Florida’s leaders deny climate change (Governor Rick Scott has allegedly banned municipal departments from using the terms “climate change” and “global warming”  and “[has] not been convinced” that global warming is real ), many local Florida officials have banned together to help themselves. This includes the creation of the Southeast Florida Regional Compact in which they “work collaboratively on mitigation and adaption strategies…to influence climate/energy legislation and funding at state and federal levels” .
In addition, the Florida legislature has recently approved $25 million statewide for beach replenishment, $50 million for water supply programs, $5 billion over 20 years for the Everglades and $35 million for park repairs and enhancements .
The city of Miami, which will be significantly impacted by climate change, is “planning to spend $400-$500 million dollars to raise roads and seawalls across the city and to install 80 pumps…[to send] flood water back into Biscayne Bay” .
Miami has also created “GreenPrint” which is a sustainability plan that outlines 137 initiatives for Miami to become more sustainable. So far Miami has completed 110 initiatives including conserving 1.74 million gallons of water every day, creating 33.6 miles of new bicycle trails and lanes and preserving 23,600 acres of endangered lands .
While these efforts are admirable, I believe that Florida should be doing more to protect itself and its tourism industry from sinking. I believe that leadership starts at the top, and for Florida to really make meaningful progress, Governor Rick Scott needs to accept that climate change is real. I believe that there needs to be comprehensive legislature across the entire state to reduce greenhouse emissions, use less water and energy, and build infrastructure around the coastal cities that will protect them from increases in temperatures and sea level. In addition, I wonder how feasible it would be to move the buildings on the shoreline back to protect them from literally going underwater.
Climate change is not an easy subject to tackle, but when governing officials refuse to believe in its existence, it makes it even harder to combat. Economists are already estimating that Florida will lose $9 billion in revenue by 2025 and $40 billion by the 2050s due to climate change .
It is up to the local, state and federal government to work together to prepare for a future in which our warmer planet has many negative implications on our most vulnerable states.
So will Florida’s tourism sink or swim in the next 84 years? The answer depends on the steps it takes now to prepare itself for its new reality. (800 words excluding citations and figures)
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 “Climate Change in Florida”, from Land Scope America website, http://www.landscope.org/florida/threats/climate_change/, accessed November 2016
 Gov. Scott: Florida Welcomed a Record 105 Million Tourists in 2015, from Gov. Rick Scott website, http://www.flgov.com/2016/02/18/gov-scott-florida-welcomed-a-record-105-million-tourists-in-2015/, accessed November 2016
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 Southeast Florida Regional Compact, “Climate Change” (PDF file), https://southeastfloridaclimatecompact.files.wordpress.com/2014/05/compact-1-page-flyer-ia-final-sa.pdf, accessed November 2016
 Florida First Budget, “Making Florida First in Environmental Protection”, http://www.floridafirstbudget.com/content/current/EnvironmentalProtection.htm, accessed November 2016
 Dick Green, “Miami Beach. Avoiding Another Lost Atlantis?”, February 10 2016, http://dwgreenassociates.com/?p=6657, accessed November 2016
 Miami Dade greenPrint, “Progress Report 001” (PDF file), http://www.miamidade.gov/GreenPrint/pdf/progress-report-001.pdf, accessed November 2016