By Bob Moore,

Sanibel has begun an important planning process. In 2019, the city commissioned a study by FGCU professor, Michael Savarese, to understand the pending effects of sea level rise and increased severity of storms brought on by climate change. The purpose of the project is summarized on slides posted on the city’s website: to “help Sanibel understand its vulnerabilities to sea-level rise (SLR) and storminess” and to identify the “most relevant climate-change effects for Sanibel.” The project is characterized as a longterm effort to first understand our community’s vulnerability and then focus on “adaptation planning to improve ‘resilience’”. As a coastal community, this is critical for us, and the city took positive action again in 2020 when it became an early adopter of a new Southwest Florida Regional Resiliency Compact. The Compact creates a framework for county and city governments in the region to work collaboratively on adaptation efforts.

Adaptation to the effects of climate change has been getting a lot of attention and support across the state. The Governor recently included in the current budget $1 billion dollars over four years to help fund planning and adaptation projects across the state. The Florida Chamber of Commerce has come out in support of adaptation measures in recognition of the importance of protecting property values and business interests. The Florida legislature is also taking this issue seriously with new legislation pending in the current legislative session to make permanent the Office of Resiliency that Governor DeSantis appointed at the beginning of his term. And environmental groups have been clamoring about the importance of focusing on these issues for quite some time.

But there’s one piece of this puzzle that is not getting nearly the attention it deserves. In addition to the stated need to invest in adaptation to the effects of climate change, the 2019 report to the City of Sanibel also stated the need to focus on “mitigation – changing carbon-use practices to lessen effects.” Resiliency requires a joint focus on adaptation and mitigation. That point is underscored by the sea level data from NOAA summarized in the report. The “scenarios for probabilistic inundation risk mapping” show low, medium and high model projections for sea level rise in the area. If we look at the medium scenario as the likely one if we do nothing to change our current CO2 emissions, we are facing a foot and a half of sea level rise in just the next 40 years. According to the NOAA projection map, my home on Sanibel is underwater at two feet of sea level rise.

This has to be stated very clearly. Focusing on adaptation is important. But if we don’t also bring a high level of urgency and local leadership to addressing the causes of climate change, we are putting our heads in the sand. The high scenario from NOAA puts us at 6.6 feet of sea level rise by 2100. We cannot adapt our way out of that. We have to change how we power our homes, businesses and local transportation to slow down the effects of climate change.

Given how intrinsic the burning of fossil fuels is to the way we live and work, this will require a massive effort, which is why we need to start now to establish a comprehensive plan for how we will change our energy sources over the next 20 to 30 years. In Florida, electricity generation and transportation account for approximately 80% of our greenhouse gas emissions. And as it turns out, we are the Sunshine State. We have solutions at hand, but we must act boldly to accelerate their adoption. Already 10 cities in Florida and over 170 nationwide have committed to going 100% renewable. Sanibel is a small community, but we have a history of providing leadership in the region on issues related to sustainability. This is our biggest issue to date.

On March 23rd, SCCF and the Sanibel Community House will be co-hosting an event titled, “Solutions for a Sustainable, Renewable-Energy Future for Sanibel and the Region.” The event will feature a panel of four presenters. James Evans, Environmental Policy Director for SCCF, will discuss why addressing climate change is vital to our economic and environmental health and how it is intrinsically linked to our water quality issues. Mayor Julie Bujalski from Dunedin, FL and Natalie Gass, Sustainability Coordinator, will talk about how their community decided to make a commitment to transition to 100% clean, renewable energy by 2035, and how they are working to achieve that goal. Richard Johnson, owner of Bailey’s General Store will speak about his experience installing rooftop solar and how it has positively contributed to the bottom line of his business. And Julia Herbst, Southwest FL Regional Coordinator for Solar United Neighbors, will talk about her organizations’ work helping residents and businesses to go solar to achieve cost savings and energy independence.

I will be moderating the event, and I hope you will join us so together we can advance a conversation for how our city and the region can begin to actively engage in this important planning. The session will be conducted via Zoom, and you can find the registration link on either www.sccf.org or www.sanibelcommunityhouse.net.

Bob Moore is Senior Vice President for a Boston-based healthcare company. He is also co-founder with his wife, Ariel Hoover, of the Lee County Chapter of the Climate Reality Project and volunteers his time with other local nonprofits. Bob and his wife power their home with solar using the LCEC net metering program. Contact information: leeclimatereality@gmail.com