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Kamala Harris to talk climate change and extreme weather resilience in Florida

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Vice President Kamala Harris will discuss the impacts of climate change on strengthening hurricanes and rising sea levels in Miami on Friday following the impacts of Hurricane Ian last fall and historic flooding in South Florida last week. File Photo by Orange County Fire Rescue Department/UPI | License Photo

April 20 (UPI) — Vice President Kamala Harris will discuss climate change and mitigation against extreme weather events in Miami on Friday as South Florida recovers from historic flooding.

More than 20 inches of rain fell in South Florida over the span of about 72 hours last week. The historic rainfall came as a storm system hovered almost in place over the region.

Last fall, Hurricane Ian also brought severe flooding that left residents trapped in their homes as it made landfall in southwest Florida.

Harris is expected to focus on how climate change specifically affects South Florida by intensifying hurricanes and accelerating the rise of the sea level.

A study published last week by researchers at Tulane University warned that the sea level is rising by half an inch annually, posing an increased threat to the Southeast and Gulf Coasts.

The study concluded that the cause of the rising sea level was a combination of man-made climate change and weather-related variability.

Harris was in Miami almost a year ago to announce a $1 billion nationwide investment into making infrastructure more “climate resistant.” Following the recent flooding, Miami’s city commissioners have directed the Department of Resilience and Public Works to draft a comprehensive plan to identify where the worst cases of flooding occur.

“I’m extremely concerned about what could happen this summer,” Commissioner Sabrina Covo said.

Miami’s hurricane season begins in June.

The flooding caused Gov. Ron DeSantis to declare a state of emergency in Broward County. Rushing water overtook roads and log-jammed travelers across the southern part of the state and shut down the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.

Ahead of Harris’ trip, President Joe Biden announced $1 billion in aid toward developing nations to combat environmental issues. The investment will be provided through the Inflation Reduction Act.

Climate change has been a consistent charge for the Biden Administration throughout its more than two years in office. The Inflation Reduction Act, signed in August, dedicated more than $370 billion toward lowering energy costs and incentivizing private investments in clean energy projects. The investment was seen as a boon for the clean energy economy as the administration pushes for a 100% clean energy grid goal by 2035 and net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

The Biden administration also announced partnerships with two prominent ride-sharing companies earlier this week to shift the United States toward broader adoption of electric vehicles.

The administration’s first large investment in transitioning to clean energy came with the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which was signed in November 2021. The law invests largely in transportation infrastructure. As a byproduct of many of these projects, Biden expects more commuters along the East Coast, for example, to opt to ride the rails rather than drive, cutting emissions.

“We have very clear goals. We want to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We want to save this precious planet of ours,” Harris said in a speech on the “Investing in America” tour last week. “It’s also about tapping into things that communities have long wanted, but these things have not been available.”

Precipitation in the South Florida region has let up in recent days. Yet the next great threat to the southeastern coast is drawing near. The Great Atlantic Sargassum Belt, a gigantic algae bloom, is expected to reach the Caribbean and the Florida coast this summer.

Stephen P. Leatherman, earth and environment professor at Florida International University, said the largest bloom ever recorded will require millions of dollars worth of cleanup on destination beaches in Florida. As of March, the belt was an estimated 5,000 miles long and 300 miles wide. It threatens sea life, the fishing industry and tourism and the gasses it produces as it decays are harmful to human health.

According to a 2022 report published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, sargassum can be linked to serious pregnancy complications in women.

“Sargassum isn’t new on South Florida beaches, but its rapid increase over the past decade indicates that some new factor — likely related to human actions — is affecting when and how it forms,” Leatherman wrote.

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Kamala Harris to talk climate change and extreme weather resilience in Florida Reviewed by RP on April 21, 2023 Rating: 5

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