Martha Duncan

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Climate change is battering Florida. Rising sea levels and recurrent flooding threaten our homes, infrastructure, and drinking water resources. As a Floridian, I am concerned we are not doing enough to combat the threat posed by climate change. We need a president who is up to the challenge of confronting climate change and protecting Floridians.

Florida has been described as America’s climate change “ground zero” because most of its population is concentrated in low lying areas along the water, which are constantly threatened by rising seas and recurrent flooding. Some climate models predict nearly six feet in sea level rise by 2100.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association mapped the U.S. areas that would be underwater if these models prove accurate. In Florida, roughly one in eight homes would be underwater. According to the U.S. Census, in 2019, there were 9,673,682 housing units in Florida. If climate models are correct, roughly 1,209,210 homes will be underwater by 2100. That’s not an insignificant number of homes, especially to those who will lose them.

These projections certainly aren’t good for home sales. The real estate market in Florida is already feeling the effects of climate change. According to a recent study, between 2013 and 2018, the number of home sales in Bal Harbour decreased by 50%, and then between 2016 and 2020, property values dropped by 7.6%. To those Floridians who have purchased and built equity in a home, drops in property value will undoubtedly cause economic strain.

In addition to our homes, roads, bridges, and other infrastructure are threatened by rising seas and flooding. According to the Monroe county spokesperson, there are roughly 144 miles of coastal roads at risk of coastal flooding. The county is spending $3.5 million of taxpayer dollars, plus design and permitting fees, on the Sea Level Rise Pilot Project. The project includes installing an engineered stormwater collection system that requires pumps, generators, electricity, retaining walls, and deep drainage wells. Monroe County is only one coastal county in Florida and only one pilot project. Tens, if not hundreds, of millions of taxpayer dollars will be needed to protect Florida’s coastal communities.

Preparations must also be made to protect Florida’s underground water aquifers, such as the Biscayne, against saltwater intrusion. Without such protections, Florida’s drinking water will be contaminated.

As Floridians, we are all too familiar with the threat climate change poses to our homes and way of life. However, we might be less familiar with the threat it poses to our national security.

This hurricane season is a not-so-friendly reminder of the threat worsening storms pose to our national security. In 2018, Hurricane Michael struck the Panhandle, destroying Tyndall Air Force Base. The hurricane damaged or destroyed every building on the base; more than 11,000 base personnel and their families were forced to relocate; some of the base’s F-22s were damaged. The Air Force requested nearly $5 billion in taxpayer funds from Congress to address necessary repairs. In the meantime, the Air Force was forced to consider grounding combat aircraft and cutting the flying hours for non-deploying squadrons. Such cuts affect military readiness and put U.S. national security at risk.

Florida is adapting to the effects of climate change — sea level rise, recurrent flooding, and worsening storms — because we must, but more must be done to mitigate the threat of climate change. As Floridians on the frontlines of climate change, we deserve a President who believes in science and climate change and will fight to protect our homes, infrastructure, and drinking water. We also deserve a Commander-in-Chief who is prepared to confront the threat climate change poses to our national security. During this historic election, let’s remember what we, as Floridians deserve: a president who will protect us against the threat of climate change.

Martha Duncan is a retired Army Reserve Officer, and a former Senior Executive, Department of Defense.

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