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FORMER NEW MEXICO GOVERNOR & U.S. ENERGY SECRETARY BILL RICHARDSON, SOUTH FLORIDA LEADERS HIGHLIGHT IMPACTS OF CLIMATE CHANGE ON COASTAL COMMUNITIES, PUSH FOR BOLD FEDERAL ACTION ON CLIMATE SOLUTIONS

FORMER NEW MEXICO GOVERNOR & U.S. ENERGY SECRETARY BILL RICHARDSON, SOUTH FLORIDA LEADERS HIGHLIGHT IMPACTS OF CLIMATE CHANGE ON COASTAL COMMUNITIES, PUSH FOR BOLD FEDERAL ACTION ON CLIMATE SOLUTIONS

When you come to Miami in August, you think about Hurricanes—and not just the Miami football team .  And no offense to you Hurricane fans, I could use some Gatorade.

Seriously--As we approach the height of hurricane season this month I’m reminded of Superstorm Sandy ––which, just a year ago, caused devastation up and down the U.S. East Coast --costly flooding here to dramatic impacts on your neighbors in the Northeast whose lives have forever been changed.  The people of New York and New Jersey suffered more than $60 billion in damages.

But those here in Miami are no strangers to the costly impacts hurricanes can cause.  And the sad news, is that our weather is changing—and becoming even more dangerous.

EXTREME WEATHER EVENTS

Superstorm Sandy was only one of the 25 extreme weather events that each cost our nation at least $1 billion between 2011 and 2012.  25--That’s a record.

They cost 1000 lives and cost the federal government $136 billion on disaster relief and recovery spending.  That is $400 per year for every American family

The costs of these extreme events have become far too great.  Too many of our leaders continue to ignore the obvious impacts our carbon-intensive ways are having on our climate.  Our electric power plants burning coal, our cars, trucks and planes burning oil.   The carbon pollution from our energy use is warming our earth and changing our climate and it is undeniable that these powerful storms are being influenced by our changing climate.

RISING SEA LEVELS

The massive amounts of carbon pollution we pump into our atmosphere is causing our air and oceans to warm, glaciers and ice sheets to melt, and our sea levels to rise at accelerating rates, fueling hurricanes like Sandy with more energy. They also are a springboard for storm surges to reach further inland – threatening more of our coastal communities throughout the U.S. and especially here in Florida.

Florida is by far the most vulnerable state in the country to rising sea levels, and the city of Miami is more vulnerable than any other city in the country. If we stay on this carbon-polluting path, seas will only continue to rise, putting Miami right in the cross hairs of terrible storms that could cause enormous human and financial catastrophe. 

We need to take on manmade climate change and everyone needs to support this effort if we are going to protect our communities. 

HURRICANE WILMA

As I’m sure many of you here today are aware of, it was here in 2005 that Miami-Dade endured the impacts of Hurricane Wilma. Wilma created a seven-foot storm surge along the county’s coast.  If the sea rises just  over 2 feet from where it sits outside today, the odds of a hurricane with a storm surge of Wilma impacting this area become 15 times as likely than in the past, jumping from once every 75 years to once every 5 years.  ONCE EVERY FIVE YEARS!

ACTION NOT TALK

We cannot allow this.  We need to act to slow down the industrial carbon pollution that is warming our planet and threatening our communities and we need to deal with the effects of the changes already happening.   AND WE NEED TO ACT NOW.

LOCAL ACTION

I’m encouraged and enthusiastic to see that the county governments of Miami-Dade, Broward, Monroe, and Palm Beach have established the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact is the first collaboration of its kind in the country. They are being proactive. They have laid the blueprint for coastal localities to work together to develop strategies to deal with Climate change. It is a model for the rest of our local communities.

 

As you know, while Hurricane Sandy spared Florida from landfall last October the hurricane still generated enough storm surge, tidal surges and damaging flooding throughout Miami-Dade that portions of State Road A1A in Fort Lauderdale were washed away while numerous roadways throughout Miami Beach and inland cities were inundated.

This  gave you a glimpse of what the future holds –a future of more frequent hurricanes and rising sea levels.  This will pose enormous challenges to Southeast Florida and especially your transportation system.  

In response, local leaders have begun to consider potential climate change impacts in their transportation decision-making process.  They are planning and working to help minimize the impacts of extreme weather and rising seas on the regional transportation network.   

What choice do local folks have but to act?  Their communities –YOUR communities and economies are at risk.  Look at the economic havoc Sandy unleashed just last year on NY and NJ:

380,000 houses were damaged or destroyed

Thousands of businesses were shuttered for weeks and months and many never reopened.

The subway system was closed, the Stock market was closed

21,000 flights in and out of North America were cancelled—grinding commerce to a halt

$60 Billion –or more --in damages

Think what could happen here…

In Washington, Congress, as is its custom these days, is doing nothing . Too many in Congress are asleep at the wheel, debating whether climate change is dangerous to our public health instead of opening their eyes to the impacts we’re already seeing in our backyards. 

PRESIDENT OBAMA’S LEADERSHIP

One leader has put Climate Change at the top of his agenda and has fought to make our planet and communities healthier and safer.  President Obama.

The President understands that climate change is a long-term problem, and that we can both reduce carbon pollution and prepare our Nation for the impacts that cannot be avoided.

President Obama has taken a number of bold steps to combat carbon pollution:

First:  Investing in Clean Energy: The US has more than doubled its use of renewable energy from wind, solar, and geothermal sources. In Florida, renewable energy increased nearly 10 percent. Since 2009, the Administration has supported tens of thousands of renewable energy projects throughout the country, including more than 1,100 in Florida, generating enough energy to power nearly 17,000 homes.

Improving Energy Efficiency:  We need to use less energy to power our homes, businesses and vehicles. President Obama has made essential investments in research and development and set new standards to make the things we use every day – from cars to microwaves – more efficient. 

 Tough fuel economy standards for cars and trucks . These standards will double the fuel efficiency of our cars and trucks by 2025, saving the average driver more than $8,000 over the lifetime of a 2025 vehicle and cutting carbon pollution.

 Energy Upgrades.  The federal government has completed energy upgrades in more than one million homes across the country, saving many families more than $400 on their heating and

cooling bills in the first year alone.

·  Finally, The President is helping Communities prepare for the Consequences of Climate Change In Florida:

As part of the President’s Better Buildings Challenge, the City of West Palm Beach committed to reducing energy intensity 20 percent by 2020 in 1.16 million square feet of city-owned buildings.

CLIMATE ACTION PLAN

Now, the President has stepped forward with his Climate Action Plan.  The President’s Plan is full of common sense solutions including the first-ever limits on carbon pollution from power plants – the single greatest source of carbon pollution in the U.S.  We need to do this—to modernize and retool our power plants.  We have cut mercury, arsenic and other toxics, but plants can still release all the carbon they want.  President’s sensible standards will cut this power plant carbon pollution.

Local government’s and the President’s efforts on climate change give us hope that we can stop the problem before it’s too late.   But this is hard work.  The industrial polluters are already fighting him despite the devastating impacts on our public health—our air and our water.  We need your voice and support.  We need you to fight back against those who deny the reality of the climate impacts that you and others are facing each morning in Miami-Dade.  We can move forward and address climate change.  And You can help.   Every person can conserve energy, every person can make a difference as the nation meets this challenge to our way of life.

TECHNOLOGY IS THE ANSWER

This is a tough topic, but as a former Energy Secretary, I know we have the technology to make renewable energy the cornerstone of our energy economy in the next century.  As a New Mexico Governor who has faced the problem of severe drought, increased wildfires and extreme temperatures, I know that while the impacts in the west and southwest are different than Florida, the threat is the same.  Our future depends on fighting carbon pollution and moving to new sources of energy.

We can and must continue to invest in solar, wind, biofuels and other alternative energies. This investment will not only help fight climate change, it will create thousands, even millions of new, green jobs.  I salute the efforts of local officials in Florida , of the President and of the thousands of Americans—businesses and individuals who are working for a brighter, greener, healthier future for our communities and our planet.

 As the President himself said:

•          “We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity…  The path toward sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult…  but that’s how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure -- our forests and waterways, our croplands and snow-capped peaks.  That is how we will preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God. 

I believe in the President’s vision.  America can achieve that vision starting right here in Miami, Florida.  Let’s do it for our families, for our communities and for our children and grandchildren—who will inherit this planet from us. 

Are you with me? 

Are you with President Obama?

Together, we can do it!

Juntos, Si Se puede!

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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