Climate change: Researchers concerned for SWFL, managing infrastructure

Published: August 16, 2021 5:36 PM EDT
Updated: August 16, 2021 5:47 PM EDT

With the latest UN report on climate change, scientists, once again, say we must act now in response to human-caused climate change.

We spoke to experts about what this recent report means for Southwest Florida.

We asked Ali Zaidi, a deputy White House national climate advisor, about what the latest infrastructure bill could do.

“Things like elevate roads, elevate building structures, to harden infrastructure in the face of hurricanes and storms that are increasingly frequent and increasingly severe,” Zaidi said.

In Southwest Florida, Michael Savarese at FGCU works to figure out how sea level rise and storms will impact the community in the future. In turn, the hope is to help the decisionmakers make the most-informed decisions.

“Keeping roads functioning, particularly in times of emergency keeping emergency facilities and health care facilities accessible when they’re impacted by climate change, the outer coast, fortifying the beaches in the barrier islands,” Savarese said.

As for areas of concern, Savarese is concerned for all of Southwest Florida’s coastal communities and especially barrier islands. Meanwhile, he said the interior of Florida has its own climate change impacts, freshwater events and high precipitation events that are going to force communities to deal with vulnerability of freshwater flooding.

Savarese says 15 jurisdictions in Southwest Florida have come together to form a compact. In it, they’ve committed to working together to prepare for and adapt to climate change impacts.

With the news of a warming earth, we are told our window to respond is shrinking.

“It’s the time to act decisively, but the punch line is action,” Zaidi said. “It’s not despair.”