Paris & Sea Level Rise – So now what?

We all heard the news…

Last week, President Trump announced that the United States plans on withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accord. The Paris Climate Accord is an international agreement to curb carbon pollution and limit the warming of our planet, and sea level rise. Since the announcement, we’ve received several questions about what that means, and what we can do individually to make a difference. One of our Facebook followers asked,

How can we, as US citizens, work together to heal the Earth? What can we do individually?

Regardless of national or international policy, including the President’s announcement to leave the Paris Agreement, the need for adaptation and resilience measures on a local level to combat environmental changes is critical. In fact, the need to act on a local level is even greater now. The effects of sea level rise are already apparent in communities across the United States, including here in South Florida. We are locked in to a certain amount of sea level rise for the next few decades regardless of any measures we take. Realistically, this means communities will have to take adaptation measures to reduce the impact of sea level rise.

So what can you do, individually?

  • Educate your neighbors and friends. Try to view the problem through their lens, and approach the topic in a way that considers how it will affect them personally and financially.
  • Consider the existing and potential effects of sea level rise on your daily routine. As you drive in the car, think about how sea level rise will affect you. Is there a street that floods when it rains now? Such flooding will likely be exacerbated by sea level rise. Consider how you might be able to change your routine to reduce your carbon footprint. Maybe you can carpool a day or two per week?
  • Get involved. All politics are local. Get to know your local elected officials, and get involved in local government processes. There are many opportunities for citizens to speak in public meetings or attend important working groups that determine the future of the community.
  • Understand your vulnerabilities and risks. Begin to consider how rising seas will affect you, your business, and your community. Understanding and communicating these risks is the first step in generating support for adaptation measures, ultimately making communities more resilient to the changes we are expected to see.
  • Adapt. Adaptation is both top-down and bottom-up, meaning that while government will have to adapt infrastructure, individuals will have to adapt their properties and routines. Most measures will take time to obtain support and funding to implement, but adaptation is an incremental process. We can start now.

Long Term

A national and global policy to curb carbon pollution is the only long-term solution. Sea level rise is primarily caused by changes in Earth’s temperature (heating the ocean and melting ice on land). Reducing warming will be the primary way to slow the rate of our rising seas. What we do long-term must remain at the forefront of our national dialogue.

Preparing for and adapting to sea level rise is a challenging and sometimes overwhelming problem. At Brizaga, we are here to help individuals, businesses, and governments understand their vulnerabilities and risks, and to take action. This is how we create a more resilient tomorrow. The problem does not need to be overwhelming – it is important to remember that even the largest bucket can be filled drop-by-drop.

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