Aerial view of Punta Gorda, Florida
Punta Gorda, Florida Aerial view of residential neighborhood. © Carlton Ward, Jr.

Stories in Florida

Leadership in Action

Adapting to a changing climate.

Impacts of climate change

Climate change is already beginning to transform life on Earth. Around the globe, seasons are shifting, temperatures are climbing and sea levels are rising. 

Since 1880, our changing climate has led to a global sea level rise of about 8 inches and recent research indicates that sea levels have been rising at a rate of 0.14 inches per years since the 1990’s. Sea level rise greatly increases the risk of flooding for coastal cities, and one of the primary impacts from climate change affecting our coastal cities and communities is more frequent storms that can cause increased damages to our growing infrastructure.

Punta Gorda aerial view
Punta Gorda Aerial view. © Carlton Ward, Jr.
Becoming Resilient

Climate resilience is the ability of a system to absorb stresses imposed by climate change and still function while adapting and becoming better prepared to handle future climate impacts.

Along the front lines of sea level rise and impacts of climate change near Miami’s famous beaches, the tenth annual Southeast Florida Regional Climate Leadership Summit played out in front of a room of more than 700 business, government, nonprofit and university climate thought leaders.

“The Florida Department of Environmental Protection just announced the funding of two coastal resilience demonstration projects in Miami that we helped to coordinate,” said Rod Braun, climate program manager and participant in the summit. “It’s a great example of so many groups coming together to move nature-based projects forward,” said Braun.

The Summit demonstrated that there is a clear business case for tackling climate change, and that it makes sense from an economic perspective. Momentum is increasing for local and regional support for climate initiatives.  Many regions in Florida are following the example of the Southeast Florida Climate Compact and are beginning to implement similar efforts tailored to their communities. Climate compacts and coalitions are currently in development for Tampa Bay and Southwest Florida counties. Collaborative efforts to tackle climate change will be strengthened as more of Florida dedicates resources to adaptation and mitigation strategies.

As the Conservancy and other climate leaders actively work to increase resiliency to current and future impacts, the focus is on managing threats to urban centers confronted with more frequent and intense storms, raised roads to combat flooding and a reduction of carbon emissions. Also on the agenda: supporting an increase in solar energy, encouraging the use of green infrastructure—trees and green rooftops—and championing affordable housing to reduce long commutes.

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There are many steps we can take now that will make a difference to our collective future. Conservancy teams in Florida and across the world concentrate on climate issues in their day-to-day work. Partnering with the  Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact, The Nature Conservancy has led teams that to develop natural systems and agriculture strategies for the compact’s climate action plan. The plan will guide efforts for the years ahead and serve as a resource for local governments and others interested in reducing the causes of climate change, while adapting to some of the unavoidable consequences already impacting the region.

Climate Change South Florida program manager Chris Bergh explains how climate change and sea level rise are impacting the Florida Keys.