Florida is extremely vulnerable to hurricanes and storm surges. According to the IPCC 4th Assessment in 2007, we can expect 7-23 inches of sea level rise by 2100. Other reports estimate an even more extreme increase of 38 inches (EPA). Temperatures in Florida are projected to increase 3-4°F by 2100, which will wreak havoc on our sensitive environments such as salt marshes and mangroves.

What might happen here in Sarasota County?

In our communities: Sea level rise could erode beachfront property, significantly increase the effect of storm surges and hurricanes, and force our community to put in place costly flood control infrastructure. The frequency of extremely hot days is expected to increase and the warmer habitat may contribute to the proliferation of pests and disease while decreasing air quality.

In our economy

The tourism industry could suffer from coastal impacts and increase in temperature and storm frequency. Insurance rates might increase due to increased risk in our coastal community. Agricultural and forestry businesses may face uncertainty due to irregular weather patterns and drought. Altered pH levels and reduced oxygen in the water will most likely hurt the sport and commercial fishing industries.

In our environment

Sensitive habitats like salt marshes and mangroves may not be able to adapt to the rapid changes, further impacting our Bay and vital marine nurseries. Plants and wildlife will be threatened by increasing invasive species and wildfires and decreasing viable habitat.

In terms of an ecological footprint, an average citizen of the United States consumes 24 acres per capita. A citizen in Sarasota County uses 22.2 acres per capita. The planet’s capacity however, is 5 acres per capita!

While the impact that the entire industrialized world has on the planet is difficult to fathom, if each of us understands our individual impact, then we can each work to reduce our individual footprint. Your impact, or ‘footprint’ on the planet can be measured in two ways: an ecological footprint and a carbon footprint.

Ecological footprint

An ecological footprint measures your demand on the earth’s ecosystems. This measurement will record how much land and sea are used to support your lifestyle, and the cost of regenerating the same products from that area. The results are typically given in planets, signifying how many planets the human population would need if every human had your lifestyle.

Carbon footprint

A carbon footprint is a specific part of the ecological footprint. It’s important to measure the carbon footprint specifically because humans have increased the levels of carbon dioxide more than other types of greenhouse gases. This calculation takes into account all of your activities and their consequent greenhouse gas emissions expressed as carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e).