On Saturday, residents in Northwest Florida will be adding their voices to those in Washington, D.C. and elsewhere in calling for action on climate change, to include a faster transition to clean renewable energy.
Locally, the People’s Climate March will take place at Long Hollow Park near First City Art Center in Pensacola’s North Hill area.
The event, to include speeches, music and other activities, is being organized by the environmental group 350 Pensacola.
“There’s certainly a broad consensus of Americans who believe that climate change is real,” said Executive Director Christian Wagley. “That’s what the science tells us and that humans are the biggest factor in that and that it’s so severe, the issues related to it, that we need to act upon it.”
Although there’s been a lot of push back at the national level recently, Wagley says the goal of the movement is to accelerate what’s already taking place in the U.S. and much of the world; that’s a transition to a new, clean energy economy.
“The natural gas, the coal, the oil that have driven our economy and took us through the Industrial Revolution and through the 20th Century; those are on the way out,” Wagley said. “And, the only question is how fast can we get off of those and move to the really almost limitless power of energy from the wind and the sun, mainly. There are other renewable forms, but those are the two that are really going to drive us.”
Looking at the current and projected impacts of climate change, Wagley refers to the National Climate Assessment. Compiled by some of the nation’s leading climate scientists, the latest report was released in 2014.
“They’re predicting greater incidence of larger hurricanes,” said Wagley, clarifying that the projection is not for more hurricanes overall, but a greater likelihood of the more powerful category 4 and category 5 hurricanes. Scientists are also predicting larger rain storms, about 30 percent bigger. “So, the 10 inch rain storm becomes a 13-inch rain storm. So, you can think about the implications of that for flooding and stormwater and the kind of storms we saw back in April 2014.”
Warmer temperatures can result in increased power usage to cool off, force farmers to change planting schedules to avoid the heat, and cut off oxygen in our local bays and bayous, resulting in more fish kills.
Then there’s the issue of our local beaches and sea level rise. Scientists have recorded about a foot of vertical rise recorded on average every century or so due to melting glaciers and thermal expansion of sea water, and hastened by carbon dioxide.
“They’re predicting anywhere from 2-8 feet of sea level rise by the end of this century,” Wagley said. “So, it’s really a dramatic acceleration of sea level rise, meaning it’s (going to) be harder and harder to hold that beach in one place.”
He points to the recent renourishment projects on the beach that wants to move and retreat, and the buildings along the coast that don’t move very easily.
Wagley and 350 Pensacola have been at the forefront of tackling climate change at the local level and helped to convince the City of Pensacola establish the Climate Mitigation and Adaptation Task Force. The panel will spend the next year researching the possible impacts, interviewing experts, and planning steps for the future.
On a national level, Wagley is not expecting much in the way of action on climate change from current leaders in Washington. But, he says when it comes to reducing carbon emissions globally, the clock is ticking.
“It’s not going to happen overnight,” said Wagley. “Because of the way this incredible system of the planet works, it takes a long time to change it. It takes time for that whole process to translate into our climate.”
The People’s Climate March and rally in Pensacola will be held Saturday morning at 10:00 a.m. It will weave through downtown, beginning and ending at Long Hollow Park on (1001 N.) Guillemard St. For those wishing to find a sister-march to attend, this Pensacola event is the only one in the region between Tallahassee and New Orleans.