The Amy H Remley Foundation  

Impact on Florida

The writer is indebted to Doctor Stephen S. Mulkey of the School for Natural Resources and the Environment of the University of Florida for granting access to his work.

Of all of the United States, the Center for Climate Strategies rates Florida as number six in terms of states contributing most greenhouse gases (GHG) to the atmosphere.

The Do Nothing Scenario

According to the highest quality, peer reviewed, science - if nothing is done to radically change the course of global warming over the next seventy years, serious consequences must be expected.

By then, global sea levels will have risen significantly, estimated to displace 200 million human beings following inundation of their homes, with vastly increased incidence of tropical diseases. Four hundred million would be expected to suffer severe water shortage. Lower crop yields would lead to widespread hunger in the developing world. In the northern hemisphere agricultural zones (subject to there being sufficient water) would move ten degrees northwards.

A third of the World's biodiversityThe genetic, species, and ecological diversity of the organisms in a given area. would have been committed to extinctionThe irrevocable elimination of species; can be a normal process of the natural world as species out-compete or kill off others or as environmental conditions change.. Most coralsmall, colonial, bottom-dwelling, marine animals that secrete external skeletons of calcium carbonate (calcite). The colonies they create with their skeletons can make enormous reef-complexes, such as the Florida Keys, the Australian Great Barrier Reef, and many coral islands in the Pacific Ocean, and other oceans. reefs and the speciesA taxonomic category subordinate to a genus (or subgenus) and superior to a subspecies or variety, composed of individuals possessing common characters distinguishing them from other categories of individuals of the same taxonomic level. In taxonomic nomenclature, species are designated by the genus name followed by a Latin or Latinized adjective or noun. dependent upon them would be lost to ocean warming and acidification due to increased assimilation of carbon dioxideCommon gas found in the atmosphere. Has the ability to selectively absorb radiation in the longwave band. This absorption causes the greenhouse effect. The concentration of this gas has been steadily increasing in the atmosphere over the last three centuries due to the burning of fossil fuels, deforestation, and land-use change. Some scientists believe higher concentrations of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases will result in an enhancement of the greenhouse effect and global warming. The chemical formula for carbon dioxide is CO2.. Approaching a third of the Amazon basin would by then be converted from tropical forest to savanna lands. World climates would be warmer and wetter, with greater more intense periods of precipitation

  1. Is any aqueous deposit, in liquid or solid form, that develops in a saturated atmosphere (relative humidity equals 100 %) and falls to the ground generally from clouds. Most clouds, however, do not produce precipitation. In many clouds, water droplets and ice crystals are too small to overcome natural updrafts found in the atmosphere. As a result, the tiny water droplets and ice crystals remain suspended in the atmosphere as clouds.
  2. The state of being precipitated from a solution.
interspersed with more severe periods of droughtA long period without precipitation.

According to Sir Nicholas Stern, within 25 years of that happening, global economic costs in today's real terms would have increased by a fifth.

Consequence for Florida

Along with other locations in the World, Florida would suffer increased health risks in a warmer world, arising from increased GHG emissions and other pollutantsSomething which contaminates (water, the air, etc.) with harmful or poisonous substances. (for example, pollen levels, particulate matterParticles of dust, soot, salt, sulfate compounds, pollen, or other particles suspended in the atmospher from forest fires sparked by drought and lightning storms, desert dust blown from Africa, and increased smog). Cardiac, respiratory diseases and heat stress illnesses would increase, affecting the very young, the elderly and the poor particularly. Increased severity of storms, flooding and coastal erosion, together with further raising sea levels up to 20 inches by 2100 would exacerbate hazards to human health.

Problems from contaminated drinking water and food supplies from warmer, wetter weather would pose increased risks to health from bacterial, parasite and viral infections conveyed by animal and human wastes, and by fruits, vegetables and shellfish. The increased prevalence of insect born diseases, such as malaria, and harmful algal bloomsExplosive reproduction of algae causing harm by release of toxins must be expected to spread their toxins to hazard human health still further.

Food and quality of water supplies are likely to be compromised as warmer temperatures increase rates of evaporationEvaporation can be defined as the process by which liquid water is converted into a gaseous state. Evaporation can only occur when water is available. It also requires that the humidity of the atmosphere be less than the evaporating surface (at 100 % relative humidity there is no more evaporation). The evaporation process requires large amounts of energy. For example, the evaporation of one gram of water at a temperature of 100° Celsius requires 540 calories of heat energy (600 calories at 0° Celsius)., requiring more irrigation, leading to lower crop yields. Moreover, as sea levels rise salt water intrusion will increase, as increasing pressures to penetrate aquifers with saltier water contaminate underground fresh water supplies and reduce amounts available for consumption.

Additional do nothing consequences for Florida would likely be:

As Sir Nicholas Stern and Dr Stephen S. Mulkey both advocate, to delay doing something of practical consequence to impede and reverse the effects of global warming and climate changes on a global scale, increases risk of serious harm to the planet, and to our children and their children for very many generations to come.

As advisor to the State Government on strategy for Florida emissions mitigation, Professor Mulkey has proposed the following:

  • Take inventory of all Florida's greenhouse gas emission sources
  • Establish a greenhouse gas reporting registry for Florida
  • Prepare Florida's climate action plan with emissions targets
  • Introduce State standards for energy production efficiency with respect to GHG emissions
  • Mandate incentives for promoting biofuels (favoring cellulosic ethanols)
  • Produce a portfolio of renewable source power generation (to reduce uses of coal fired power generation)
  • Mandate efficiency standards for appliances
  • Apply Green building standards for state buildings
  • Use market based incentives for compliance, including cap and trade

Among proactive policies proposed for Florida are the following to make positive contribution towards reducing GHG emissions and to counter impacts:

Emissions Trading

The need to control greenhouse gas emissions to reduce the global rate of global warming has been espoused for many years. Various means are being considered from using alternative methods of energy generation, which requires significant capital investments and time to bring them on stream, to administrative policies making it less attractive financially to produce and discharge greenhouse gases into the atmosphere as opposed to producing and discharging reduced amounts of them.

A method referred to as Cap and Trade, uses the concept of issuing permits to pollute the atmosphere which can be traded between organizations and even nations. The notion is that an entity already issuing too high levels of greenhouse gases (more than a cap amount) into the atmosphere can buy permits from a governing body or an entity able to control their emissions more effectively and issue comparatively less amounts into the atmosphere. The cost of the permits is an incentive to reduce the harmful emissions sooner.

Such cap and trade arrangements have been in discussion in many countries since 1990, although the supporting economic theory emerged some twenty years earlier. Cap and trade provisions were included in the Kyoto protocol of 1992, to which the United States was not a party.

Since then some states have taken the initiative to institute emissions trade schemes. In 2003, for example, New York State secured commitments from nine northeastern states to form a cap and trade carbon dioxide emissions program for power generators. Also, in that same year, U.S. corporations were able to trade carbon dioxide emission allowances on the Chicago Climate Exchange voluntarily. In 2007, the California legislature passed into law the Global Warming Solutions Act, providing for a creation of a regional program of greenhouse gas control and an emissions offset trading arrangement.

Nationally, an early example in 1990 sought to reduce acid rain impacts under provisions of the Clean Air Act. Subsequently, between then and 2007, sulfur dioxide emissions were reduced by half. The present United States administration proposes to support clean energy development with a 10-year investment of $15 billion per year, generated from the sale of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions credits. Under this proposed cap and trade program, all GHG emissions credits would be auctioned off, generating an estimated $78.7 billion in additional revenue in 2012, steadily increasing to $83 billion by 2019.

A recent (June, 2009) market based "carbon trading" plan, that mirrors a 2005 European system, has been proposed in Congress known as the Waxman-Markey bill. It carries with it the notion of issuing free of charge pollution credits to industrial concerns, which have limits assessed on their atmospheric carbon emissions. When a concern exceeds their limit (or cap) they can use the carbon credits to cover the excess pollution. When they use up their credits, more credits may be purchased in the open market created by concerns having surplus credits that they are willing to sell. Failing that, a financial penalty will be imposed upon the excessive polluter. Concerns which operate within their cap may offer credits for sale in the open market.

The idea is to encourage concerns to reduce their carbon emissions or accept a penalty. There appears to be no rule to prevent these increased costs being passed to consumers. A theory suggests that monies generated by this carbon market will be invested in new carbon-clean technologies, and even stimulate creation and production of such new technologies. This suffers from the difficulty in making a strong carbon market when credits are issued for free, and especially so when most credits are issued to the heaviest polluters. Any glut of credits ensures that market prices remain suppressed.

The time taken to design, construct and prove more cost and carbon efficient strategies for concerns does not appear adequately reflected in the Cap and Trade proposal. Moreover, a complication in times of economic stress encourages selling of credits in the market simply to bolster a concern's bottom line.

Such a scheme has not proven to be successful in Europe, and seems to possess too many flaws to be a success in America.

Clearly, Florida is exposed to considerable expense both immediately and for the future to counter the adverse impacts of climate change as outlined above by Dr Mulkey. The Florida legislature is considering new policies in this regard and participation in cap and trade arrangements, both for local entities and for the state, could possibly help to contain some of the costs to be carried.

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