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Guest Correspondence

For those watching the local TV news weather reports this week, we learned September was the warmest September on Earth since weather records began being kept. 

Locally, ABC 7's Bob Harrigan reported that September 2016 was over 2 degrees warmer here than September 2015. In fact, 11 of the past 12 months have been record-setting in terms of temperature on our spaceship-planet.

Rising global temperatures is not really a news flash. If there is one nearly universal agreement point related to rising global temperatures, it is that temperatures have been rising and that the earth’s ice glaciers are melting accordingly.

Most now believe, just as 2 + 2 = 4, that the melting of earth’s massive ice caps will continue to result in steadily rising sea levels.

As a vulnerable coastal community, in a highly populated state surrounded by the oceans, the City of Sarasota has begun the process of preparing to anticipate the impacts of climate change on our future. We are undertaking this analysis to be able to attempt to adapt and help to minimize the threats to our community as we move forward. I suspect as more and more citizens and policy makers learn how rising sea levels could impact Florida’s main assets, our heavily populated 5,000 miles of coastlines and beaches, many more will get serious about attempting to minimize the potential damage.

We are able to become more proactive on this concern through the City Commission's recent decision to set aside resources from the $2 million BP Deepwater Horizon Gulf Oil spill settlement to develop our climate adaptation plan. Over the next year, a plan will be pulled together to begin to anticipate and plan appropriately for rising sea levels and more volatile weather events due to the Earth heating up. 

As we begin to review and update our public policies and priorities to respond locally to the global environmental situation impacting us, I discovered that Sarasota is now the international home base to the climate change response thought leader organization called ThisSpaceshipEarth.org.

The authors of the easy-to-read yet powerful book, This Spaceship Earth, are Ringling College Professor Tim Rumage and futurist David Houle, who also teaches at Ringling. Tim lives here and David recently moved full-time to Sarasota from Chicago.

As our community begins to anticipate and respond to climate change more assertively, thisspaceshipearth.org adds even more local capacity to the other local agencies we can partner with for information, expertise, reliable research data and implementing actions.

With Mote Marine Research, the Sarasota Bay Estuary, the Science and Environmental Council of Southwest FL, Ringling College, New College, USF and other conservation and environmental organizations represented in our town, we will soon have the important and challenging public discussions that will be vital to saving or adapting the coastline in a state whose popularity and economy, if not very existence, is based upon public access to our ocean, bays and beaches.

I highly recommend This Spaceship Earth for your beach reading this season, and thank residents David Houle and Tim Rumage for writing it.

As always, I welcome your comments, questions and suggestions.

Thank you for taking the time to read this month’s column. 

Tom Barwin is city manager for the City of Sarasota. Forward any thoughts you may have on this or related subjects to: thomas.barwin@sarasotagov.com.

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