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Arctic Council Report A Wake Up Call For Florida

Sea ice and permafrost are melting faster than previously predicted according to the Arctic Council's latest report.
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
Sea ice and permafrost are melting faster than previously predicted according to the Arctic Council's latest report.
The Florida Channel
Sea ice and permafrost are melting faster than previously predicted according to the Arctic Council's latest report.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson just left an Arctic Council meeting in Anchorage without saying whether the U.S. will pull out of the Paris accords. Meanwhile, climate change activists say Florida should pay attention to the council's latest report.

Tillerson didn’t drop any bombshells at the Anchorage meeting. But he hinted the U.S. might pull the plug on the Paris agreement.

“We’re not going to rush to make a decision. We’re going to work to make the right decision…for the United States.”

Former State Department negotiator turned climate change activist Rafe Pomerance says pulling out of the Paris accord would be very bad news for Florida.

Now Pomerance chairs a group called Arctic 21. He points to new research showing that glaciers, sea ice and permafrost are melting faster than previous predictions and threatening coastal communities with sea level rise .

“The fate of Greenland is the fate of Miami. The citizenry of the rest of the country has a stake in what happens in the Arctic.”

Pomerance says Floridians don't have the luxury of ignoring bad news from the top of the globe.

“Sea level rise is an existential threat to Florida, and the Arctic is one of the big drivers of that.”

The Arctic Council’s latest report is called SWIPA for Snow, Water, Ice and Permafrost in the Arctic. Among the findings is that the Arctic Ocean could be completely free of ice in summer as early as 2030.

NASA scientist Walt Meier, a primary author, says that’s as much as 50 years earlier than the models predicted just a decade ago. 

“You know, that’s going from something that young kids today maybe would see in their lifetime, more likely their children or grandchildren would see, to something that young kids almost assuredly will see in their lifetime.”

Meier says that means sea level rise will also be worse.  Instead if rising by an average of 32 to 45 centimeters by 2100, the new projection is between 52 and 74 centimeters. The range depends on whether nations follow the greenhouse gas limits set by the Paris agreement.

Meier says even an extra foot and a half would be noticed.

“That can make a big difference. That could be the difference between a bad storm and a catastrophic storm in terms of flood damage and things like that.”

Meier says Florida can’t escape the fallout from a more rapidly warming Arctic.

“The glaciers in Greenland are melting and losing ice faster than expected and there are new pathways to lose ice. And that of course has direct ramifications on coastal areas like Miami that are near sea level.”

Meier says the new SWIPA report, “concerning.”

“Based on what we’ve been seeing changing in our state of knowledge over the last 10, 15 years, that is a little bit scary, because as we found out more, it seems to be getting worse and worse.”

Senate Democratic Leader Oscar Braynon of Miami participated in a climate change forum in Fort Lauderdale this week. Organized by young activists and environmental groups like the Moms Clean Air Force, the forum focused on the effects of climate change on minority communities.

Braynon says it’s ironic that President Donald Trump wants to pull out of the Paris agreement considering his beloved winter White House is in Palm Beach.

“Mara Lago would be under water. The Trump Hotel on Sunny Isles would be under water. You know he owns a lot of property that would be directly affected by this climate change.”

Copyright 2020 WFSU. To see more, visit WFSU.

Jim Ash is a reporter at WFSU-FM. A Miami native, he is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years of experience, most of it in print. He has been a member of the Florida Capital Press Corps since 1992.