Forecasting climate on the Suncoast up to 2050, the CAC wants to make global climate local
SARASOTA - With the Climate Adaptation Center here on the Suncoast, next month experts will make a local climate forecast for 2030, 2040, and 2050. The goal is to make this a prototype for regional climate forecasts for all parts of the U.S and to make climate change more local.
I spoke with the CAC's founder, Bob Bunting, on the main issues he sees affecting much of the state, including some you may not associate with climate change. Here's is a rough transcript of the interview:
BOB: [Issues critical to the Suncoast are] sea level rise, increasingly strong hurricanes that are more slow moving because of climate change, and red tide which is increasing here since the Gulf of Mexico doesn’t cool in the winter and kill it. And we have the human effects: more heat stress, more humidity, more worry about the climate, and we also have biodiversity degradation going on in Florida. It’s a full hand if you will of climate disruptions as we’re facing more and more, and as time goes on, it will increase.
MARCO: I remember the last time we spoke, [you said] the Suncoast was ground zero for climate due to all the pillars that you referred. The Brevis not being able to be killed is an issue that people may not connect to climate warming, but it is connected; it’s one of the tendrils of warming waters.
BOB: In all of these cases, we had these problems before. Climate isn’t making the problems; it’s just enhancing the problems.
MARCO: What can we look forward to for the Climate Adaptation Center?
BOB: We’re very excited because November 19th at the University of South Florida in Selby Auditorium, we’ll have our second climate conference. This will be dedicated to forecasting the climate in 2030, 2040, and 2050. We’re looking at Orlando and south to Key West. That’s the area we’re forecasting for. 30 years ago, when I was director at NCAR in Boulder, Colorado, we made the first climate models to forecast global climate. Those models predicted the disruptions we’re having now. Weather and climate have come together with a 30 year lag if you will. So now we feel we have the technology and science to make the first ever climate weather forecast. Not just for this area, and it’s something that’s never been done before.
MARCO: I feel that’s the thing that’s been difficult. For years, meteorologists in general would always have to say this system or this hurricane or this event, we can’t really connect that individual event to climate change. But more and more, I’m hearing about connections. What do you think has changed, and maybe what you just answered is part of the answer, but what do you think has changed that we’re connecting individual events more to the broader topic of climate change?
BOB: I think that’s such a good question and what we highlight in the conference. Basically, we’ve increased computer power so much that we’re able to run these climate models. How we run them is we run them without the CO2 and greenhouse gases, just like it was always the same in 1875 when the Industrial Revolution started putting all the carbon in the world. And we can run that climate scenario in the future as far as we want. Then we put the signal of Mankind with CO2 and greenhouse gases and they predict the individual levels of storms or floods accurately. So when they didn’t happen in a non-human induced world with CO2, but now with this in the models, we do.
I think the key thing people need to know is world was warming in 1990 half as much as today. So all that heat is redistributed. And it’s redistributed with these severe weather events moving the energy around and getting the world to equilibrium. So it’s not just that warming. It’s the rate, and the rate has doubled.
MARCO: I think a lot of times when people hear climate news, it’s negative because of the long-lasting impacts. Having spoken to you enough, you’re pretty jovial despite researching pretty serious stuff. Why are you optimistic?
BOB: I’m optimistic because making climate local makes it more personal to us. I believe we shouldn’t work from the top down but more from the bottom up. What can our communities do to learn about climate warming. What can we do to mitigate the worst impacts? We have that choice. Mankind, unlike other species, has free choice. I believe we’ll make the right actions if we believe it’ll benefit us.
We care about our grandkids, but let me tell you something, people care about themselves. And they always thought that climate warming was going to be for the next generation, but what we found out is it's here right now.
For tickets, click here.
The event will be held at the USF Sarasota-Manatee campus in the Selby Auditorium on Friday, November 19. Breakfast begins at 8, and the event ends at 5. Tickets are $65.