Will Hurricanes Depopulate Florida?

We thought we'd ask now, while tropical storms still dominate the news cycle. Shades of Tragedy of the Commons, it seems increasingly plausible to view southern and mid-atlantic coastal culture in general to be in "over-reach" mode. Suppose this is correct. Will the 'Snowbirds' move back north, preferring only a wintertime visit? Will future Carribean in-migrants shift their gaze to New Jersey? Will Florida tax codes need to be changed to pay for the continued rebuilding? Can Uncle Sam afford to ride to the rescue repeatedly? More important from a global perspective, will a prospective slowing of growth in electricity demand obviate the need for adding more coal fired generation of the type pointed out to us by Paul, a TreeHugger reader from Tallahassee? Before offering a comment, consider this demographic summary from the Population Reference Bureau: "According to the U.S. 2000 Census, Florida was the seventh fastest-growing state in the United States, with the population of 17 of its 67 counties more than doubling between 1980 and 2000. Many new residents are retirees who have moved to Florida to take advantage of the state's mild climate and favorable tax structure. Others are Caribbean immigrants seeking economic opportunities. All have one thing in common—they have made a choice that puts them at potential risk from dangerous tropical storms that regularly strike the state".Paul pointed us to this reference site for details on the proposed coal plant ballot measure that his friends and neighbors are concerned with.

With mid-term elections in 2006, communities all over the nation will soon be considering ballot initiatives that embody environmental issues. However, 'thinking globallly but acting locally' presents serious political risk these days. Based on national opinion research, only a minority fully accept climate change as a threat, suggesting inadequate grass roots support could be found for energy conservation or renewables programs. Pointing out the stuck-open feedbck loop between increasing coal fired plant emissions and climate damage allows the "business as usual" crowd to frame the message bearers as self-deluded obstructionists.

Many of the forthcoming ballot measures will be complex. Linking them to climate change, even in the hurricane zone, could confound or even anger an already riled and miserable public. Or not. When Aunt Martha and Uncle Herman leave Florida for an early Thanksgiving visit to northern relatives, spurred by Wilma's breath and backwash, they'll give us a readout from the front lines. We're all ears for signs that the "tipping point" has made a beachhead.

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