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It’s going to get hotter in Florida, says scientist

By Staff | Jun 23, 2009

It’s a story of extremes, including long-term heat waves, higher sea levels and water scarcity for Florida. A new federal report provides a dire region-by-region assessment of the potential effects of climate change, and calls for aggressive action now to slow the pace of global warming.

Dr. Amanda Staudt, climate scientist for the National Wildlife Federation, contributed to the report, released this past week by the Interagency Global Climate Research Program, a project of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

As if summer isn’t hot enough already in Florida, Staudt warns that the state is likely to feel even more heat.

“The report shows that days in Florida with temperatures over 90 degrees Fahrenheit will increase by a factor of two or three times, if we fail to address climate change very soon.”

The study, a compilation of data from more than a dozen agencies, predicts more frequent and intense heat waves across the country. It suggests developing quicker ways to adapt to the changes, allowing some areas to avoid harmful impacts to public health, agriculture, water resources and business.

Skeptics about climate change believe changing weather patterns and conditions are part of natural cycles, and don’t link them to human action. Staudt disagrees, saying the report sums up global warming as “unequivocal and primarily human-caused.”

In Florida, she adds, it means facing greater threats to our many coastal communities. “The state could also face at least one to two feet of sea level rise, as much as a 27 percent increase in hurricane wind speeds, and decreased water availability.”

While the report is full of dire warnings, Dr. Staudt also sees hope in it – because, she says, the nation is stepping up its efforts to reduce the kinds of pollution that have been scientifically linked to a rapidly-changing climate.

“The good news is, there’s a bill moving in Congress that would send a signal to the world that the United States is serious about energy independence and climate change.”

In the meantime, she says, the choices made now will determine the severity of climate change’s impact in years to come. The report, “Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States,” can be viewed online, at www.globalchange.gov/usimpacts.