Florida Atlantic University distinguished professor Leonard Berry, Ph.D., director of the Florida Center for Environmental Studies (CES), recently was invited by the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources to testify at a full committee hearing in Washington, D.C. The purpose of the hearing was to receive testimony on the impacts of sea level rise on domestic energy and water infrastructure.
“Florida has recorded 5 to 8 inches of sea level rise in the past 50 years, and this intensifies water management issues. Future projections suggest 3 to 7 inches of additional rise by 2030 and 9 to 24 inches by 2060,” Berry told the Senate committee.
If these projections become reality, Berry said, canals will not drain property and more flooding will result, threatening agricultural land, developed land, forests, mangroves, marsh and tidal flats, sandy beaches, scrub, prairies and sand hills. Billions of dollars of residential real estate, as well as schools, hospitals, hotels, two nuclear sites and hundreds of hazardous materials sites, are vulnerable, as well.
Moreover, some communities and major metropolitan areas will lose parts of their transportation networks and costal well contamination – from saltwater intrusion – will extend further inland as sea level rise continues.
Berry noted that many of Florida’s decision makers are aware of these potential problems and are starting to respond to them. He called the Southeast Florida Climate Change Compact “a unique partnership of four diverse counties … formed precisely for the purpose of responding regionally to the impacts of sea level rise and other climate-related phenomena.”
Other witnesses at the hearing were Dr. Waleed Abdalati, chief scientist at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration; Dr. Ben Strauss, chief operating officer and director for the Program on Sea Level Rise at Climate Central, Princeton, N.J.; Dr. Anthony Janetos, director of the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory's Joint Global Change Research Institute; and Adam Freed, deputy director of the Mayor’s Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability in New York City.
CES is a research center established in July 1994 by the Regents of the State University System of Florida. CES was created as a place that would "synthesize and communicate knowledge ... to the community at large."
This "knowledge" refers to environmental management issues related to Florida ecosystems including tropical and sub-tropical water-dominated freshwater, estuarine and coastal ecosystems. CES acts as a facilitator and coordinator of research and training related to the environment and as a locus for environmental information.
CES helps facilitate productive research, information and training relationships within Florida Atlantic University and among Florida's universities and state, national and international agencies, including both the public and private sectors. CES works in the broad field of the management of tropical and sub-tropical water-dominated ecosystems and in related information technology worldwide.
Berry and Dr. Marguerite Koch, from the department of biological sciences in the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science, head a collaborative program called “Research, Engineering and Adaptation to a Changing Climate.” The program – selected in 2010 as one of three FAU Research Priority Projects – combines the expertise of researchers in biology, engineering, geosciences, marine sciences and social sciences.
The program has three key themes: human system problem assessment and sustainability through reengineering and adaptation; natural system assessment and technology development; and climate change coordination, education and outreach.
Berry’s written testimony is available at: http://www.energy.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/files/serve?File_id=e0f5e6f1-34f1-4bd9-8243-8b3c77e1d27d.
A video presentation of the entire hearing is available at: http://www.energy.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/2012/4/full-committee-hearing.
The video begins at the 20-minute, 10-second mark on the archived webcast. Berry’s testimony begins at 47 minutes, 38 seconds.
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