BIG-C hears about proposed regional climate consortium

Nov 2, 2017

By BOB McCLURE, Tampa Bay Newspapers

BELLEAIR BEACH – Longtime Tallahassee lobbyist and clean energy advocate Susan Glickman of Belleair Beach told members of the Barrier Islands Governmental Council Oct. 25 of her plans to form a consortium of local leaders to find solutions to the growing climate issues facing the region.

Glickman, the Florida director of the Southern Alliance on Clean Energy, is forming the West Coast Florida Climate Compact, which would involve coastal county leaders from Pasco County south to Sarasota and Lee counties. The idea is to come together as a regional unit to form climate control strategies and develop a regional climate change action plan, involving counties, municipalities, universities and colleges and power companies.

It would be modeled after the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact, which was formed seven years ago and has made quite a bit of progress in Monroe, Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties.

“I’m not telling you what it’s going to look like,” Glickman said. “Everybody’s got to come together and figure it out, whether it’s home hardening, solar generators or whatever it is. But we do need to be thinking about this.”

She said with sea level rise on the horizon, it’s imperative that coastal counties find solutions and the cost of those solutions can be better handled through a regional approach resulting in more federal funding.

Glickman said the Tampa Bay Climate Science Advisory Panel, an ad hoc group of scientists and planners, projects a 7-foot sea level rise in the area by 2100 and the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council is predicting a 2.9-foot rise by 2060.

She said climatic mapping of the region would be the first step, similar to what the South Florida group has done.

“Pinellas County has begun assessment mapping but these are things that need to also be done in Manatee and Sarasota, as well as Pasco and Hillsborough counties,” Glickman said. “We need to look to some of our neighbors in the Tampa Bay region and maybe even down south on the west coast of Florida.”

She emphasized the importance of a regional strategy because west central Florida is potentially in more danger from a major hurricane than South Florida.

“We’re more vulnerable than South Florida because in South Florida, the shelf drops off,” Glickman explained. “Our shelf is very shallow and we are very vulnerable to storm surge.

“We need to tie in to what is already going on, look at the gaps and see what else we need to do,” she added. “So, if the Science Advisory Panel says were going to have seven feet of sea level rise by 2100, how do we reduce that or not make it worse?”

Among the ideas she suggested is the electrification of cars.

“Also, solar and wind energy production are much cheaper than really anything else, even natural gas,” Glickman said. “Gas is half the emissions of coal, so we’re moving in the right direction. But we really need to reduce these drivers.”

She said Florida sends about $50 million a year out of state “to bring in fuel from elsewhere to power our lives and we are going to shift that, which we’re already seeing.”

Glickman stressed the need for the region’s leaders to work collaboratively on mitigation and adaptation strategies and develop a regional climate change action plan.

“It’s a high-level commitment to work together,” she said.

In South Florida, Miami Beach has plans to spend about $400 million on pumps and to elevate roads. The city of Miami has a bond issue on its November ballot that will provide funding for climate infrastructure.

Glickman has been involved in renewable energy and environmental concerns since the late 1990s, when the World Wildlife Fund hired her to drum up Republican support for U.N. climate talks in Bonn, Germany.

Before that, she spent nearly a decade working on health issues, advocating for research funding to fight prostate cancer and for authorizing the FDA to regulate tobacco with the Campaign for Tobacco- Free Kids.

In 2000, she teamed with the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, which eventually led to her squaring off against Florida’s largest investor-owned utilities over solar power.