Observed Climate Change in Florida

By | November 3, 2008

For the Full Report in PDF Form, please click here.

[Illustrations, footnotes and references available in PDF version]

Background and Summary

In October 2008, the Governor’s Action Team on Energy and Climate Change released a draft version of its 14-month effort of developing an Action Plan aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions from Florida. The impetus behind the creation of the Action Team and the development of the Action Plan grew out of a summit on climate change (“Serve to Preserve: A Florida Summit on Global Climate Change”) hosted by Governor Crist in July of 2007. This event “gathered leaders of business, government, science, and advocacy to examine the unique risks of climate change to Florida and the nation, and to explore the economic development opportunities available through an aggressive response to climate change.”

Interestingly, while the term “climate change” is splashed all over the place, presumably as the underlying reason for the need of the “Florida Energy and Climate Change Action Plan” in the first place, nowhere within the entire Action Plan is there an analysis performed which demonstrates the impact the that Action Plan’s regulations and recommendations will have on “climate change.” The Action Plan prominently touts its projected impacts on reducing greenhouse gas emissions from Florida, but nowhere translates the projected emissions reductions to projected mitigation of climate change. Without a quantification of the climate impacts, the value of the Action Plan in achieving its primary goal of protecting Floridians from “climate change” cannot be assessed.

How could such a glaring oversight occur? Simple. The Governor’s Action Team on Energy and Climate Change has a dirty little secret it doesn’t want you to know about—the Action Plan will have absolutely no meaningful impact on the future course of global (much less statewide) climate change.

In this report we do what the Action Team should have done. In fact, we do the Action Team one better. We analyze what the impacts on future climate change will be if Florida’s ceased all of its greenhouse gas emissions, now and forever. What we find is compelling.

Even a complete cessation of greenhouse emissions from Florida will likely slow the future rate of global warming by less than one one-hundredths (<0.01) of a ºC per century. The impact of sea level will be an equally meager tenth of a centimeter. What’s worse, greenhouse gas emissions are increasing so rapidly in China that new emissions from China will completely subsume the entirely of Florida’s emissions cessation in less than 6 month’s time. Clearly, the Action Team’s Plan merely calling for incremental reductions in greenhouse gas emissions will fare even poorer. There is simply no climatic gain to be had from emissions reductions in Florida.

Additionally, we review Florida’s long-term climate history and find little in the way of evidence that greenhouse gas build-up in the atmosphere has altered Florida’s climate. There has been no long-term change in state wide average temperature, precipitation, or drought frequency. Natural cycles in the state and regional climate can largely explain changes in patterns of hurricane activity and vector-borne disease outbreaks. The state’s population has largely adapted to the region’s weather and is virtually immune from occurrence of heat waves. The rate of future sea level rise is not projected to be largely different from the on-going rate of sea level rise along Florida’s coast—a rise that has been well-adapted to as Florida’s rising coastal development and population attests.

All told, Floridian’s have been little impacted by global “climate change” and regulations prescribing a reduction in the state’s greenhouse gas emissions, such as those recommended by the Energy and Climate Change Action Plan will have no detectable effect on future climate change. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said about the impact of emissions regulations on the state’s economy, which have been projected to be large and negative.

As such, the Action Plan presents a perfect recipe for an all pain, no gain outcome. Outcomes will likely include reduced state revenues, staggering unemployment in both the private and public sectors and the threat of imploding State employee and teachers’ pension funds.