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Brookings says Florida cities can expect biggest costs of climate change

The Sunshine State is home to eight of the ten worst-positioned cities.

Yeah, Buffalo, N.Y., like other northern cities has it bad just now, with more than a foot of new snow expected Tuesday and the temperature expected to dip below zero Tuesday night. But just wait.

The ramifications of global climate change, projected out in dollars and deaths, find Florida cities can expect the hardest hits, lead by the Lakeland-Winter Haven metro area and Tampa Bay, according to a new study released Tuesday by the Brookings Institution.

“How the geography of climate damage could make the politics less polarizing”, a new report released Tuesday, projects the economic costs expected from climate change for the last two decades of the 21st Century, finding stark contrasts between the anticipated impacts on Florida and the Southeast compared with cities up north.

Hurricanes, sea level rise, withering agriculture, higher energy needs, and other ramifications are expected to add dramatically to costs in the South and Southeast, especially Florida. The Sunshine State is home to eight of the ten worst-positioned cities in America, according to the report published by the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program.

The report says Lakeland’s economy could contract by 17.5 percent by the end of the century from direct climate-change impacts, while Tampa’s could be 16.8 percent smaller. They rank first and second nationally for the most economic impact in Brookings’ report. McAllen, Texas, slips in at third, and Jackson, Miss., at ninth. But the rest of the top ten are filled out, respectively, by the Cape Coral-Fort Myers [fourth], Sarasota-Bradenton, Deltona-Daytona Beach, Melbourne-Titusville, Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, and Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach metro areas.

By contrast, Northwestern and New England cities like Seattle, Portland, Ore., and Buffalo actually stand to benefit from climate change through reduced mortality and lower energy expenditures, the report projects.

From the state level, Florida can expect the greatest per-capita cost increases due to climate change, followed by Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas and Alabama, according to the study.

The report focuses largely on the divided partisan politics of climate change policy. “In much of the country Republicans are voting for people who are opposed to climate policy, even as they are most exposed to climate impacts,” the authors Mark Muro, David Victor, and Jacob Whiton state.

However, that’s not entirely reflective of Florida, where quite a few Republicans and Democrats have united in recognition and concern about climate change. The bipartisan Congressional Climate Solutions Caucus was co-founded by Republican U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo  [now out of office] and Democratic U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, and has included Republican U.S. Reps. Brian Mast, Francis Rooney, Matt Gaetz, and Bill Posey [along with Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, also now out of office]; along with Democratic U.S. Reps. Charlie Crist and Stephanie Murphy.

On the other hand, former Gov. and now U.S. Sen. Rick Scott opposed climate change or global warming discussion in his administration even to the point of reportedly banning the words’ use in his administration; and fellow Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, while pressing an environmentalists agenda, has avoided declaring climate change as something due to human activity, or something that could be addressed by policy.

Written By

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at scott@floridapolitics.com.

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