I am always looking for opportunities to grow in my field. I attend every workshop, seminar, conference and webinar possible and I read the news, blogs, and books constantly. So when I found out about the Climate Reality Leadership Corps Training in Miami, I knew I had to sign up. I had read An Inconvenient Truth and seen the movie as well, so a chance to listen to Al Gore for 3 days sounded like an amazing learning and networking opportunity. Although climate change wasn't my area of study in college, I understood, and saw, all the links between climate change and the things that were important to me, like access to safe drinking water, sustainable crop production, and global health.
The 3-day conference was held in beautiful Miami, Florida, ground zero for severe economic loss due to rising sea levels. Ironically, the day before the conference officially began, there was a King Tide which brought greater-than-expected flooding into the streets of Miami. It was a perfect stage set for the conference. Of the 1200 attendees, only around 300 were from Florida. The rest came from across the U.S. as well as from India, Pakistan, Germany, Italy, Mexico, South Africa, and other countries.
Former VP Gore gave his famous presentation but with information that was up-to-date from data, news, and video footage as recent as the previous day. It was heartbreaking but powerfully motivating. You see, the conference was a training event intended to prepare attendees to take the information back to their communities and actively engage others in climate change solutions. Attendees were selected from a pool of applicants that pledged to commit a minimum of one year and ten 'acts of leadership' to the volunteer project. The training provided volunteers with the necessary information, tools, and resources to lead community educational events, presentations, and activities to address climate change.
So what does Climate Change mean for Florida? Well, first off, Miami is rated most at risk, globally, in terms of assets due to sea level rise with an estimated $3.5 trillion USD of exposed assets at stake by the year 2070. The New York/Newark area ranks number three in the world, with just over $2 trillion USD at risk. Projected sea level rise in South Florida is estimated at least two feet by 2060 and at least three to four feet by the turn of the next century. This kind of sea level rise threatens infrastructure, beachfront homes and hotels, natural ecosystems, the drinking water supply, and the storm-water drainage system. In addition to sea level rise, climate change threatens Florida with extreme heat events, increased hurricane frequency and intensity, increased algal blooms that cause marine life die-offs, and decreased crop productivity due to drought.
What's the problem? Scientists agree that the most significant impact on climate change comes from the current fossil-fuel energy system. The biggest opportunity for Florida is an improvement to the state's power policies. Florida is one of a few states that has not adopted a renewable portfolio standard, a regulation that requires energy suppliers to generate a specific amount of their total energy from renewable sources (NRDC, 2014). Florida is one of just four states that only allows the sale of electricity from one of its four major utilities but is ranked third for its potential to produce solar energy. That prevents any solar companies from installing panels and covering the cost by having customers pay for the electricity they produce — the most widely-used model for the expensive system. “The utilities use their legacy power and wealth … to absolutely control the state Legislature and the governor’s office,” Gore said, denying Florida residents “the opportunity to take advantage of buying electricity at a cheaper price by turning away a monopoly.”
What can we do? The non-profit grassroots group Floridians for Solar Choice is "working to place a constitutional amendment on the 2016 ballot that would give Florida's families and businesses the right to choose solar power." So for starters, sign the Solar Choice amendment petition! You can collect signatures from your family, friends, and coworkers, as well. Then write or call your legislators to tell them why the freedom of solar choice is important to you. Think about your personal climate change story. How will you, your loved ones, your job, or your home be affected by climate change? Next, join The Climate Reality Project and other organizations committed to solving the climate crisis. Then join in on Live Earth's 24 Hours of Reality on November 13-14th. This 24 hour online event brings together artists, influencers, and millions of people across the planet for a global day of action and music to celebrate progress across continents and send a clear message to world leaders: Take Climate Action Now! You don't have to participate all 24 hours. Just tune in when you can and be present. "The world is watching. Join us."
Interested in hosting a Climate Reality presentation? I would be happy to speak to your group about Climate Change. A typical presentation lasts 20-30 minutes and is aimed for teens and adults but presentations can be modified for various audiences and time constraints.