THE FOURTH MOST heavily populated state, Florida is also the top travel destination in the world. In 2006, nearly one million visitors, domestic and international, poured $83 million into the state's economy, according to Visit Florida Research. Nearly $4 billion went back into state coffers as taxes. Agriculture ranks second only to tourism in Florida's economy. The state produces 75 percent of the oranges grown in the United States, and 40 percent of the world's orange juice. Both as the state with the nation's second longest coastline, more than 8,400 mi. (13,516 km.), and as the largest farm-income state in the southeastern United States, Florida is particularly vulnerable to the impact of global warming. Like most coastal states, Florida has already felt the effects of global warming, and experts warn of more severe consequences as climate changes accelerate. Florida has responded with a multitude of strategies designed to address all facets of the problem.
A 2001 study conducted by scientists at Florida's universities noted signs of coastal erosion, dying coral reefs, saltwater intrusion into inland freshwater aquifers, and increased air and sea temperatures, all generally-accepted signs of global warming. Predictions were dire. If sea levels rise the estimated 8-30 in. (20-76 cm.) over the next 100 years, seawater could advance inland as much as 400 ft. (122 m.). Not only would such an advance devastate the beaches that help to draw millions of tourists to the state, but homes and infrastructure would also be at risk, a critical concern in a state where 77 percent of the population lives in coastal cities. Salinity could become another major concern as freshwater supplies become contaminated, and potability of water supplies for the state's cities and orchards are threatened. Saltwater could also encroach on coastal wetlands, posing a particular threat to the Everglades and the more than 60 threatened or endangered species that inhabit the area, including the wood stork, the American crocodile, the West Indian manatee, and the Florida panther (with an estimated wild population of only 30 to 50 animals).
Although Floridians and their visitors depend heavily upon air conditioners and enjoy more than a million residential swimming pools that require pool pumps, Florida ranks 46th among the 50 states in total energy consumption per capita. Greenhouse gas emissions reveal a less positive picture. In 2001, 3.92 metric tons of greenhouse gases per one million Florida residents were released into the atmosphere, making the state the 13th highest emitter. Carbon dioxide accounted for around 92 percent of Florida's emissions in 2003. Between 1990 and 2003, the state's CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion increased by 30 percent. The utility sector accounts for 50 percent of the emissions, and transportation for another 41 percent.
Florida has a long history of conservation. The state is the site of the nation's first wildlife refuge (Pelican Island) and the first eastern National Forest (Ocala National Forest). Concerted efforts to protect the ecosystem of the Everglades have been ongoing for nearly half a century. Since 1999, Florida's governors have pursued the most ambitious land acquisition program in the nation, acquiring nearly 2.5 million acres at the cost of more than $5 billion. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the state agency assigned the responsibility of managing Florida's natural resources and enforcing environmental laws since its creation in the mid-1970s, is engaged, with the South Florida Water Management District, in implementing the 30-year, $10.5 billion state-federal partnership to restore America's Everglades, the largest environmental restoration project in the history of the world.
Despite this impressive record in land management, however, Florida had been tentative in addressing global warming. Former Governor Jeb Bush signed the Florida Renewable Energy Technologies and Energy Efficiency Act in June 2006, and created the Energy Commission, a group charged with advising the state legislature on energy policies. The state followed this step by inventorying greenhouse gases, experimenting with net metering (a program to measure a customer's total electric consumption against that customer's total on-site electric production), encouraging electric power customers to use renewable sources, and adopting more environmentally-friendly building codes.
The most far-ranging action came in July 2007, when Governor Charlie Crist signed three executive orders in a single day that mandated changes in Florida's actions relating to climate change. The first order set reduction targets for greenhouse gas emission by state agencies of 10 percent below current levels by 2012, 25 percent below by 2017, and 40 percent below by 2025. It also adopted the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System for all state and state-funded buildings and required state vehicles to use ethanol and biofuels when these fuels were available. The second order set statewide greenhouse gas emissions targets of reaching 2000 emission levels by 2017, 1990 levels by 2025, and 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. Tied to these targets is the adoption of the California tailpipe emissions standards.
Additional changes included in the order are revisions in the Florida Energy Code for Building Construction to make new construction more energy efficient, a requirement that utilities produce a minimum of 20 percent of their electricity from renewable sources, and the authorization of statewide net metering. The final order created the Governor's Action Team on Energy and Climate Change, a 21-member panel of representatives from government, business, academia, and environmental groups, and charged them with recommending ways to achieve the ambitious new targets. The first phase of the group's responsibilities was to be completed before December 1, 2007. Governor Crist also signed agreements with
Germany and the United Kingdom for mutual discussion of ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to extend the ideas of the Kyoto Protocol.
SEE ALSo: California; Kyoto Protocol; Salinity.
BIBLIoGRAPHY. J.E. Davis and Raymond Arsenault, eds., Paradise Lost: The Environmental History of Florida (University Press of Florida, 2005); Florida Department of Environmental Protection, www.dep.state.fl.us (cited November 2007); "Florida Governor Signs Three Climate Change Related Executive Orders," Pew Center on Global Climate Change, www.pewclimate.org (cited November 2007); National Resources Defense Council, "Global Warming Threatens Florida," www.nrdc.org/globalwarming/nflorida. asp (cited November 2007).
Wylene Rholetter Auburn University
Was this article helpful?
Your Alternative Fuel Solution for Saving Money, Reducing Oil Dependency, and Helping the Planet. Ethanol is an alternative to gasoline. The use of ethanol has been demonstrated to reduce greenhouse emissions slightly as compared to gasoline. Through this ebook, you are going to learn what you will need to know why choosing an alternative fuel may benefit you and your future.