Global temperatures on the Earth’s surface have increased by 1.1 degrees Fahrenheit during the last century, faster than any time in the last 1000 years (Rauber 41). Consequently, the 1990s was the warmest decade in the last 1000 years (“Global Warming”). As humans emit fossil fuels, greenhouse gasses slowly warm the Earth’s atmosphere (“EPA Global”). This gradual process is known as global warming. As glaciers begin to melt, sea levels rise and coastal areas in Florida may suffer immense losses (“Beach Erosion”). Florida’s tourist economy may also suffer a tremendous loss, as well as agriculture (“Florida Scientists”). With a warmer atmosphere, disease will spread quicker and human health will be threatened throughout the state (“Global Warming”). Serious action needs to be taken in order to slow the process of global warming.
Global Warming is an increase in the temperature of the Earth due to the use of fossil fuels and industrial processes that build up to the emission of greenhouse gasses, mostly carbon dioxide and methane (“Global Warming Threatens”). As energy from the sun strikes the surface of the earth, it turns into heat which, in turn, releases the heat as long-wave infrared radiation (Crowe). Gasses in the air, such as carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, chlorofluorocarbons, and water vapor, trap some of this radiation as it tries to make its way back out to space (Olgesby). These gases trap in heat as do the windows of a greenhouse; therefore, they are called greenhouse gases (Elston). As an excess amount of these gasses are emitted into the Earth’s atmosphere by industries and fossil fuels, the temperature of the Earth’s atmosphere gradually increases (Oglesby). Humans escalate the amount of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels and by many manufacturing processes (Crowe). In the U.S., from 1990-1997, carbon dioxide emissions have increased 10.7 percent (Elston). This activity and a warming atmosphere are causing drastic changes around the earth, especially in Florida.
Global warming poses a threat to Florida’s beaches and freshwater supplies due to a rise in sea level (“Southeast”). Warming the atmosphere will raise sea levels by expanding ocean water, melting mountain glaciers, and melting parts of the Greenland Ice Sheet (“Beach Erosion”). The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates that the local sea levels may rise 8 to 30 inches by the year 2100 (“Global Warming Threatens…”). The horizontal advance can be 150 to 200 times greater than the sea level rise, and even greater in areas with a moderate sloping shoreline (Alvarez et al). Consequently, saltwater will be forced to move landward, which shifts the border between saltwater and freshwater inland and causes the encroachment of saltwater into groundwater aquifers (“Southeast”). Over the longer-term, a three-foot sea level rise could be disastrous for aquifers in Ft. Lauderdale, Miami and Homestead areas, which are located on the low coastal ridge (Alvarez et al).
In addition, rising sea levels put at risk the stateТs number one status as a retirement and tourist destination (“Global Warming Threatens”). Hotels, homes, and property within 200 to 250 feet of the current shoreline may be flooded (“Florida Scientists”). This, in turn, will alter the $51 billion annual revenue from Florida’s tourist economy (“Florida Scientists”). According to the stateТs tourist development agency, 71 million people visited Florida in 2000 (Alvarez et al). Miami Beach alone generates $2 billion a year in tourism revenues, and the Florida Keys generates $1.8 billion annually (Alvarez et al). The state’s economy will suffer significantly as higher seas flood all property on these beaches (“Global Warming Threatens”). Many of Florida’s cities by the sea, including Miami Beach, Daytona Beach, Palm Beach, Clearwater, Key West, Tampa, St. Petersburg, Pensacola, and Marco Island, will face great hardships due to a rise in sea level (Alvarez et al).
A warming atmosphere will also lead to changes in Florida’s agriculture which is highly sensitive to changes in weather and climate (“Southeast”). The production of citrus, sugarcane, and tomatoes adds billions of dollars to Florida’s economy (“Florida Scientists”). Global warming’s effects on agriculture will vary by location and on the specific crop (Alvarez et al). Warming temperatures and carbon dioxide fertilization will increase citrus production by about 6 to 20 percent in Florida over the next 40 to 50 years (Alvarez et al). Although citrus will benefit in the short-term, its productivity in the long-run will suffer (Alvarez et al). Citrus yields will begin to decrease once temperatures have gone past the nominal growing range and soil moisture has been reduced from the heat (Alvarez et al). Sugarcane is a $437 million industry in Florida and is mostly located in Palm Beach County (“Southeast”). Global warming may severely impact the production and sales of sugarcane (“Southeast”). If sea levels rise 18 to 20 inches, flooding will intensify and decrease sugarcane yields due to nutrient pollution problems (Alvarez et al). This will decrease sugarcane growth by about 20 percent (“Southeast”). Florida is also the nation’s leader in tomato production (Alvarez et al). However, a warming atmosphere could decrease the state’s tomato production by about 44 percent as a result of shortened growth cycles (Alvarez et al). Global warming will definitely lead to changes in how and where Florida farmers grow crops (“Southeast”). With some crops these changes may be beneficial and with others it may be detrimental.
Global warming poses several potential health threats to the population of Florida. The first potential health threat is that of bad air quality (Elston). Higher temperatures increase the rate of smog formation, and increased use of fossil fuels could increase a range of air pollutants (“Global Warming”). A major component of smog, ground-level ozone, is formed from nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds (Epstein 51). As the atmosphere warms, this reaction speeds up and produces more smog (Epstein 51). Chronic respiratory diseases and obstructive pulmonary disease can be made much worse by breathing ozone (Elston). Carbon monoxide, sulfur oxide, and nitrogen oxides worsen existing cardiovascular diseases and may produce lung irritation and reduced lung function (Alvarez et al). Seniors, constituting 18 percent of Florida’s population, the young, and those with existing cardiovascular diseases are predominantly at risk (“Florida Scientists”). Many of the germs that cause waterborne diseases, such as viruses, bacteria, and protozoa, survive longer in warmer water (Epstein 55). Serious diseases like hepatitis, cholera, and yellow fever will more easily be transmitted as the lack of clean water and waterborne diseases spread (Elston). The lack of clean water in a drought causes bad hygiene and unsafe rehydration for people who have lost a lot of water from diarrhea or fever (Alvarez et al). Droughts, caused by global warming, favor waterborne diseases, wipe out supplies of safe drinking water, and, thus, concentrate containments (Epstein 55). In addition, vector-borne diseases, such as malaria, encephalitis, and dengue fever, will be more common as a result of a warming atmosphere (“Southeast”). Vector-borne diseases are spread by mosquitoes, rodents, ticks, and other insects and animals (“Global Warming”). Rising temperatures will expand the range of many vectors and can play a role in the transmission of the disease itself (Alvarez et al). This is due to the fact that a warmer atmosphere will provide more area in which the mosquito and many other vectors can survive (Epstein 50). Today, 45 percent of the world’s population live where they might get bitten by a mosquito carrying malaria (“EPA Global”). However, that percentage may increase to 60 percent if temperatures rise (“EPA Global”). The total number of deaths related to heat waves is estimated to double by 2020 (Epstein 50). Florida’s population, especially the senior population, is a great risk due to the health risks of global warming (Elston).
Florida is faced with serious challenges as a result of global warming. These challenges threaten the stateТs natural areas, economic prosperity, agriculture, and human health. The state can avoid such harm by taking action before it is too late. Some solutions include driving efficiently, taking public transit, walking, or using a bicycle (Rauber 41), limiting the burning of fossil fuels for energy (Epstein 57), using compact fluorescent light bulbs, because each can prevent 400 pounds of coal from being burned to make electricity, buying a car which meets one’s needs, yet is very efficient (Rauber 41), and, finally, plant a tree or protect a forest (“Global Warming”). Trees absorb carbon dioxide and can offset some greenhouse gasses (Olgesby). Serious action needs to be taken now to avoid such devastating harm.