Tri-County Working Group Update May 2016

The consensus that humans are causing recent global warming is shared by 90%–100% of publishing climate scientists according to six independent studies, according to a report sent to us by Dr. Stephen Mulkey. Dr. Mulkey accepted our invitation to speak to a small group of Tri-county Working Group members on April 21 in Dunnellon. He got our group up to date on the current thinking about climate change and how it should be dealt with in the future.

Dr. Mulkey’s presentation was very convincing and based on scientific facts.    As the Washington Post wrote recently (April 20, 2016),

“The first three months of 2016 have been the hottest ever recorded, and by a large margin. Greenland’s massive ice sheet melted more this spring than researchers have ever seen. Warming seas are turning once-majestic coral reefs into ghostly underwater graveyards. And scientists are warning that sea levels could rise far faster than anyone expected by the end of the century, with severe impacts for coastal communities around the globe.

That grim drumbeat of news will loom over the United Nations on Friday — Earth Day — when officials from more than 150 countries gather to sign a landmark agreement aimed at slashing global greenhouse gas emissions and slowing the warming of the planet. It simultaneously will be a moment of understandable celebration and sobering reality.

The agreement, forged late last year after intense negotiations in a Paris suburb, has been hailed as a crucial milestone in putting the world’s nations on course to reduce reliance on fossil fuels in favor of cleaner, more sustainable forms of energy. But in the four months since that rare moment of global accord, the near-constant reminders about shifts in the Earth’s climate have underscored that staving off the worst consequences of global warming may require increasingly ambitious actions.”

Dr. Mulkey is the president emeritus of Unity College in Maine where he worked from 2011 until 2015.   He has returned to Gainesville, Florida since his resignation there December, 2015.    He taught in the past at University of Florida.   He is an environmental scientist with outstanding knowledge and credentials. Dr. Mulkey got right into a discussion of things we need to do in Florida.

There are three primary areas of concern that need to be addressed in the near term, according to Dr. Mulkey:

(1) The frequency of coastal flooding is increasing and the economic damage from this can be expected to multiply rapidly. Efforts to control coastal flooding should not attempt to permanently forestall flooding or provide a long term infrastructure fix. Such efforts are futile in the face of such accelerating sea level rise. Instead we should begin the first stages of strategic retreat from the shoreline, moving those homes and businesses that are most vulnerable to coastal flooding first.

(2) Because of rapidly rising seas, amplification of storm surge is more of a looming threat from hurricanes. Hurricanes are generally projected to be stronger, but perhaps less frequent under the influence of warming seas and shifting trade winds. Regardless, we can expect a few very big Atlantic storms to hit Florida this century. Again, we should formally assess the engineering aspects of coastal infrastructure for resistance to amplified storm surge, and begin strategic retreat as soon as possible. Potential loss of life should be a serious consideration in such planning. Many coastal areas of Florida are occupied by aging populations that are largely dependent on public transportation.

(3) Coastal property values will tank in the relatively near term. Although it is impossible to know precisely when this will occur, because of this new science, it will almost certainly happen sooner than previously anticipated. Certain properties will be more likely to drop in value sooner than others depending on exposure to coastal flooding. Reclassification of properties by FEMA, which is likely, could have a profound impact on property values throughout coastal Florida. My estimate is that property values will begin to selectively change within five years, and large scale changes will follow once the details of strategic planning become public knowledge.

We were urged to get involved and ask questions at the local level.  How are our leaders and our state planning for the next 50 years?   What should we do to plan ahead for the future?

Dr. Mulkey concluded his talk with us by emphasizing his belief that we are interdependent and need each other.  He said,  “We need each other. It is a fact that we all live in the shelter of each other, and this is simply not negotiable. The breakthrough last week in Paris on climate change makes it clear that we must work together on a global scale in order to preserve civilization.”

***For more information about Dr. Stephen Mulkey, go to