South Floridians are seeing the impacts of climate change firsthand, in sunny-day flooding and record-breaking temperatures as recently as Memorial Day weekend.
That's why for many, President Trump's decision Thursday to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate accords constituted a betrayal.
Following the president's announcement, about a dozen protesters gathered in Museum Park near the new Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science in downtown Miami. They carried signs reading, "Florida Can't Wait: Climate Action Now" and "Don't Drown Homestead."
Caroline Lewis is founder of the CLEO (Climate Leadership Engagement Opportunities) Institute, a Pinecrest-based climate change education organization. She described Trump's decision to withdraw from the accords as "a crime against humanity," given the abundance of scientific evidence showing that climate change and sea level rise will imperil entire communities.
"You do not make America great again by doing what the president just did," Lewis said. "We want Florida to be ground zero for reversing this crazy decision."
South Florida leaders have undertaken a number of regional initiatives to address the growing threats of climate change and sea level rise. One of the largest is a nearly 10-year partnership among Broward, Miami-Dade, Monroe and Palm Beach counties in the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact. More recently, Miami-Dade County and the cities of Miami and Miami Beach have partnered in the international 100 Resilient Cities program to address sea level rise and promote urban resiliency.
Trump's decision to leave the Paris accords flies in the face of those efforts, said Diana Umpierre, who was protesting with the Sierra Club environmental advocacy group.
"We worked really hard in South Florida ... to really try to do our part in containing the issues that have to do with human-induced climate change," she said. "What is happening with the administration at the federal level is really an insult."
In South Florida, climate change could cause seas to rise by 6 to 12 inches in the next 15 years, according to Regional Climate Change Compact estimates. Scientists also say the rate of sea level rise is speeding up, and seas in South Florida could be 6 feet higher by the end of the century.