Over 300 billion tons of the Greenland icecap have melted into the sea in each of the last ten years. Buildings are sinking into the melting Russian tundra permafrost as average temperatures in the far north have risen on average almost 5 degrees Fahrenheit. And here in South Florida, our beautiful Biscayne Bay, which defines our community, has risen nearly a foot since 1930 and continues to rise at an accelerating rate. Our community is at Ground Zero of sea level rise and we must recognize that doing nothing and blithely ignoring demonstrated scientific facts are not a viable options.
Let’s face it, if you believe in science and if your opinions are fact based, the news for South Florida on sea level rise is not good. Based on the levels of CO2 already in the atmosphere, South Florida could see an additional 2 feet of sea level rise as soon at 2045. If we do not reverse the trends, children born today will enter adulthood having to endure the consequences of our inaction, with failing infrastructure and a limited water supply. Our generation owes it to every child in our community today to take bold steps forward.
I believe Miami-Dade County must recognize the consequences of inaction and declare a “climate emergency” and commit to the bold goal of the “decarbonization” of its operations and infrastructure by 2035. County Government must lead in a way that not only demonstrates our commitment to action, but that also fills a leadership role that inspires other communities in our state, nation and the world to make a similar commitment to reversing the effects of climate change.
The tasks before us of leading in this fashion are not simple and the pathway to success is not clearly defined, but just as President Kennedy set a goal in 1961 to put a man on the moon by the end of that decade, we too must take on the challenge of successfully completing a climate “moonshot”. The officials at NASA had no clear plan on how to meet the challenge given them and much of the technology required did not exist in 1961, but they committed to the goal and achieved it just as we must now with our very existence as a community hanging in the balance.
A recent study completed by technologist Saul Griffith for the US Department of Energy concluded that such a “moonshot” is actually quite feasible given our nation’s wealth and technological capabilities. What is clear from his study is that this is not the moment to think small but instead to reach beyond our perceived abilities and commit ourselves completely to the challenge before us.
The County can lead the way by directly addressing its own big carbon footprint. First, county department directors should be given decarbonization goals as part of each department’s performance measures. Second, local government regulations should be modified to create an environment which facilitates carbon reduction and incentivizes our private sector partners. Third, the county, in collaboration with local universities, business and industry leaders can turn their innovative power toward transforming South Florida into the Silicon Valley of green technology.
We must be prepared to invest in the future, if we are to have a future. I believe we can secure that bright future if we act now. Like the scientists at NASA who did not have all the answers when given the challenge to go to the moon, we here in Miami-Dade need to begin the process that will determine our continued existence as a vibrant, growing community. The fact that we do not have a solution to every problem must not be used as an excuse to do nothing now. We will only achieve our “moonshot” if we dare to dream big dreams and position ourselves as a shining example of thinking globally and acting locally. All of us must come together to assure this community’s survival.
The science is clear. The atmosphere is warming. The seas are rising. Humans created this problem and humans can fix it. Who better to show the world the way than the resilient, innovative, creative and entrepreneurial people of Miami-Dade County? If not us, then who? If not now, when?
Miami-Dade County Commissioner Jean Monestime can be reached at 305-694-2779 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org