Monroe County prepares for climate change


The Monroe County Climate Change Advisory Committee will meet at the Marathon Government Center at noon, Monday, March 10. The meeting will focus on the recommendations of the Monroe County Climate Change Action Plan that was presented to the County Commission in March of 2013.

The purpose of the plan was “to outline a course of action for County government and communities of Monroe County for a countywide coordinated strategy to mitigate climate change impacts and to increase the sustainability of communities within the Florida Keys.”   Commissioner Heather Carruthers is the BOCC liaison to the Advisory Committee.

The Committee will engage in a review of the Action Plan’s recommendations as they relate to the science of climate change. Alicia Betancourt, a staff liaison from the Monroe County Extension Service, will address the components of the plan as they relate to the element of climate.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a multi-national group of scientists and government representatives met in Valencia, Spain, and in November of 2007 and produced a report that presents four major conclusions.

1) Warming of our climate system is unequivocal, as is now evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperature, widespread melting of snow and ice and rising global average sea level.

2) Observational evidence from all continents and most oceans shows that many natural systems are being affected by regional climate changes, particularly temperature increases.

3) Global Greenhouse Gas emissions due to human activities have grown since pre-industrial times, with an increase of 70% between 1970 and 2004.

4) There is high agreement and much evidence that with current climate change mitigation policies and related sustainable development practices, global GHGemissions will continue to grow over the next few decades.

The Advisory Committee meeting agenda also includes discussion of a yard waste RFP and a recommendation for incineration of yard waste. The item of issue here is whether or not yard waste should be composted or incinerated. Currently, county collection of yard waste is transported to the mainland at considerable cost. Composting may be costly to establish, but it could reap future benefits whereas incineration of yard waste is less costly financially, but comes with added Greenhouse Gas emissions, something that the plan hopes to diminish by 20% by 2020.

Rhonda Haag, the County Sustainability Program Manager will lead the discussion on the yard waste RFP. Bob Glazer, Chair of the Advisory Committee, will make a recommendation for incineration of yard waste.

The entire issue of climate change is one that raises a variety of very serious questions about the science of climate change, the causes, the potential impacts and, perhaps most of all, mitigating actions that will make a real and necessary difference.

The entire Keys have a total landmass of approximately 130 square miles. Key West has a total landmass of about 5.9 square miles. There are only two places in the Keys where there is one mile of land between the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. The highest elevation above sea level in the Keys is about eighteen feet. If the science is correct and we can expect current climate trends to continue for the next several years, just how much of this landmass will we be able to sustain?

Public input at the Advisory Committee meeting is early on the agenda and again toward the end of the meeting.



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