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Southwest Florida seeing local impacts of climate change according to new climate assessment

Posted at 4:16 PM, Jan 13, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-14 05:58:13-05

FORT MYERS, Fla. — While the forecast this week might not seem like it, but 20-21 was an exceptionally warm year here in Fort Myers and around the United States. NOAA and NASA released their 2021 Climate Assessment on Thursday stating that 20-21 was the 4th warmest in the United States and 6th warmest globally since records have been kept.

The global temperature is currently running about 1.2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial norms. NASA scientists say there is a 50% chance we reach 1.5-degrees of warming benchmark set by the Paris Climate Accords sometime this decade.

“There is also nothing magical, or something horrible that is going to happen at 1.5 degrees,” said Lesley Ott, climate scientist at NASA. “It is just a sign of the continued intensification and seriousness of the problem and a reminder if we really want to turn this around. Urgency, there is urgency, in needing some action, and urgency in how we prepare in making sure our communities are reliant to disasters.

According to NOAA, at least 680 people died in the United States due to weather in 2021. Weather also caused at least 145 billion dollars in damage.

“These extremes are really the way climate change is effecting people in their daily lives,” said Ott. “That abstract number of a global temperature increase is important for scientists, but that doesn’t mean a lot to people. So unfortunately, people are starting to see these effects more and more.”

Climate change has been felt even on a local level, and not just in major weather events. Fort Myers saw the 4th warmest year on record in 20-21 with temperatures 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit above normal.

“That number might not seem like whole lot on a daily basis,” said Ott. “We see a lot of fluctuations in weather and people are use to it. But the important thing to remember is all that heat, the fact that planet has temperature. That is really the fuel of why we are seeing these extremes.”

As for hurricanes, NASA Climate Scientist Lesley Ott says climate change could lead to more intense storms.

“You know about the danger by of tropical storms already; but the fact that climate change can add more fuel, more water that can lead to more intense hurricanes potentially, and the fact that sea level is making those hurricanes more damaging for coastal communities,” said Ott.

Ott also says that raising sea levels from artic ice melt and warming ocean temperatures could lead to more coastal flooding in Southwest Florida.

“That is why so many coastal communities, including those in Florida, are really trying to track that in and prepare for adjustments to infrastructure,” said Ott. “How do we deal with making our communities more resilient? Because we know this something that will at least continue into the near term

While you can make your home more energy efficient or buy local, Ott says when we attack it as a community, that when we can make a real difference.

“Some of greatest projects we are seeing in reducing emissions are actually at a city scale,” said Ott. “Look at some of things you are doing around your own home of course, but also look at some of those organizations you belong to and maybe try to bring some of these issues up