By Mahadev G. Bhat, Ph.D.
How does climate change affect Florida's Economy?
With global climate change, Floridians can expect extremes in rainfall, hurricanes,
drought, sea level rise, and increasing temperatures over the next few decades. All
these climate-related issues will pose challenges for our state’s economy, as well as
our daily lives.
When looking at Florida’s economy, the effects of climate change will be most
noticeable in four key sectors: tourism, real estate, agriculture and health.
How Will Climate Change Affect Tourism in Florida?
More than 131 million visitors came to Florida in 2019, and out-of-state visitor spending was nearly $94 billion in 2018. This vast number of tourists supported 1.5 million jobs for Floridians. Now, consider what would happen if Florida would lose part of its beautiful, sandy beaches, its scenic state parks, and iconic national parks like Everglades National Park – a World Heritage Site and International Biosphere Reserve. A four-foot sea level rise by 2070 could eat up thousands of square miles of the Florida coast and low-lying wetland areas. This could significantly impact this important source of revenue for Florida: tourism income and jobs. To make matters worse, increases in storm surges and high-tide flooding could also compound the potential economic losses from sea level rise. Realizing this potential threat, Miami Beach, one of the most at-risk cities in the world, has made more than $500 million in infrastructure investments to protect its roads, buildings, and water pumping systems from high-tide flooding.
How Does Climate Change Affect Our Health?
Climate change can have a major impact on the health of Floridians, projected to increase risks for cardiovascular-related deaths, heat stroke, and mosquito-borne illnesses like Zika, Dengue fever, and West Nile fever. In 2012 alone, ten climate-sensitive events (e.g., an algal bloom in Florida, extreme heat in Ohio, etc.) in the U.S. contributed to 917 premature deaths, and thousands of hospital admissions, emergency room visits, and outpatient cases. Florida residents endured total health care costs of $557 million due to the toxic algal bloom in 2012. Extended extreme heat conditions in Florida, which can exacerbate human mortality and sickness, are predicted to increase in the future. Unfortunately, Florida’s annual health care expenditures have continued to climb, reaching $228 billion in 2019 with no sign of a slowdown.
How do we mitigate the impact of climate change?
Can Floridians do anything to mitigate the impact of climate change? The answer is a
resounding yes! First, we can become involved in our communities and take an active role to address the consequences of climate change. We can take responsibility for our own greenhouse gas emissions, managing our travel and household utilities and supporting political leaders who believe in moving away from sole dependence on fossil fuels. We should support public expenditures for infrastructure to make our cities and towns more resilient and help private businesses make climate-friendly economic choices.
We can advance restoration of America’s Everglades, an effort that will help to protect
its stock of carbon from being released into the atmosphere and mitigate the impacts of saltwater intrusion. Finally, climate education has never been as important, and you can become a climate educator as well as an activist. After all, there is no climate readiness without climate literacy.