Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development

Floridian Scientists, Officials Call on Presidential Candidates to Debate Sea-Level Rise Threatening 40% of U.S. Population

Reducing short-lived climate pollutants can provide fast mitigation

Washington, DC 11 October 2012 – Today more than a hundred scientists and government officials in Florida called on the Presidential candidates to address the danger of sea level rise at the third and final presidential debate in Boca Raton on October 22. Sea levels have already risen by nearly 8 inches on Florida’s coasts and could cost the state billions to repair and reinforce drainage, water supply systems, roads and other infrastructure to cope with the rising water. At current rates, sea level rise will increase by 50% by 2060, a conservative estimate according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

“Because Florida is so densely populated, it is estimated 40 percent of the population and housing units at risk from sea level rise in the nation are here, in the state of Florida,” according to the letter.

“Florida is ground zero for sea level rise and many other damaging climate impacts, including hurricanes and devastating storm surges,” said Durwood Zaelke, President of the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development. “The human and economic impacts of climate change are already being felt today and politicians can no longer afford to ignore climate change. We need fast action to limit the current impacts and prevent even worse impacts in the future.”

“Taking fast action to reduce short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) such as black carbon, tropospheric ozone, methane, and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) has the potential to cut the rate of global warming in half over the next thirty to forty years,” said Zaelke, “and significantly slow the rate of sea-level rise.” He added, “Cutting SLCPs can also reduce the rate of warming in the vulnerable Arctic by even more – up to two-thirds.” This is critical because warming in the Arctic has the potential to set off dangerous feedback loops that cause warming to accelerate in the region, triggering further melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet, which scientists predict could contribute to up to a 6 foot rise in sea level by the end of the century.

The Obama Administration launched the Climate & Clean Air Coalition to Reduce Short-lived Climate Pollutants earlier this year. The Coalition is undertaking fast-action mitigation projects to reduce SLCPs. It now has 19 partners from developing and developed countries, along with the World Bank, UNEP, and the European Commission. IGSD represents NGOs on the Steering Committee. Zaelke stated, “Success with these fast-action mitigation projects will help slow sea- level rise and other climate impacts, if the Coalition can quickly reach sufficient scale.”

The Florida letter is here.

The Climate & Clean Air Coalition to Reduce Short-lived Climate Pollutants is here. A description of strategies to reduce short-lived climate pollutants is here.