Since the 1980s, the direct cost of hurricane events in the US has increased eleven-fold, from $3.8 billion annually to $43.8 billion annually in 2020. This is the result of more structures and population being located in risk-prone areas and the increased severity of hurricane storms. Climate modeling suggests that with moderate increases in GHG emissions and related warming, the frequency of Category 4 and 5 storms could increase by 45-87 percent by 2100 (Knutson 2013), and the one in 100-year storm could happen every 5-10 years (Emmanuel 2017). With this much at stake, it is clear that our approach to addressing coastal storms and climate resilience must evolve.

One meaningful change is to engage in regional resilience, rather than solely on an individual jurisdictional level. This approach was first embraced in 2010 with the creation of the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact (SEFRCCC), which includes Monroe, Miami- Dade, Broward, Palm Beach Counties, and participation of 110 cities that signed a Mayor’s Climate Action Pledge. The success and national recognition of this collaborative approach has made it a model for resilience planning, one that is being replicated in East-Central Florida, in the Tampa Bay region, in Northeast Florida and now in Southwest Florida. With the leadership of Professor Mike Savarese at Florida Gulf Coast University, a Southwest Florida Regional Resiliency Compact is now being organized for Charlotte, Lee, and Collier counties and the 10 encompassed municipalities.

Initially proposed in 2018, the Southwest Regional Resiliency Compact formed a steering committee of 50 local representatives to frame its purpose and objectives that are expressed in a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). The MOU must now be adopted by each jurisdiction in the region. Charlotte County and the City of Sanibel adopted the MOU in August, and Marco Island will consider the measure on September 9th. For this regional approach to be successful, it imperative we contact our cities’ and counties’ elected leaders and ask them swiftly to join the Compact by adopting the MOU.

Like the SEFRCCC, the Southwest Regional Resiliency Compact strives to improve our resilience to “storminess”, aka hurricanes, and other climate impacts including sea-level rise, increased precipitation and flooding, and rising temperatures and drought by building and sharing technical tools, knowledge and policy approaches. Acting as a united region, the Compact is able to coordinate action across jurisdictions, increasing their efficacy, and increase public support and political will for climate action. Fruits of the SEFRCCC, included development of one unified sea level rise projection for south Florida’s Atlantic coastline, which allowed all the cities, counties and their engineering consultants to plan based on a common data set. The Compact’s participants also voluntarily share policy language, program ideas, and technical specification for resiliency projects like sea walls and pump systems, thus reducing the cost and the time from proposal to adoption. Compacts provide a forum for training and education of both staff and elected officials, fostering the camaraderie and trust that facilitates a coherent regional approach. Equally important, creation of a Southwest Regional Resiliency Compact demonstrates to outsiders that our region is addressing risks and adapting to future climate impacts. It helps to bring grants and resources to the area, and signals that we are a safe place to invest, grow your business, and prosper. It keeps Southwest Florida competitive with other parts of the state.

As the dates become available regarding when the Southwest Regional Resiliency Compact MOU will be brought before the individual jurisdictions, Growing Climate Solutions will send out a notice. Please take the time to email your local officials to express support for the regional resilience approach.