You can prepare for or react to climate change, but Climate Adaptation Center CEO and Chairman Bob Bunting said the latter will cost us.
“Prevention is 20 times more (cost effective) than responding to disasters. I’d make a bet on a 20-to-1 return everyday,” said Bunting. “That is a good investment.”
Adaptation to a changing climate and disaster prevention were the focus of a series of lectures Bunting gave Feb. 6-7 in Sarasota, Venice and Lakewood Ranch in partnership with the Sarasota Institute of Lifetime Learning. He’ll be leading another presentation, which is open to the public, at 10 a.m. Feb. 13 at the Glenridge Performing Arts Center in Palmer Ranch.
The event is one of many in CAC’s ongoing mission to educate people and push for developing cost-effective climate adaptation strategies for Florida. Founded in 2019 by Bunting, the Sarasota-based CAC bridges “the gap between state of the art scientific research and public sector understanding of our changing climate,” according to its website.
“I’m going to show a chart of the last 24,000 years of average temperatures on Earth,” Bunting said of the upcoming talk.
Bunting will use that as a jumping off point to explain how during most of that epoch Earth’s temperature fluctuated by approximately 1 degree Celsius. That is, until about 1870, when the Industrial Revolution began to really heat up, literally.
“Since 1870 we’ve had more climate change than we’re used to having in several thousand years,” said Bunting, who explained that presenting these statistics is an “eye-opener” for many people.
Another eye-opener that Bunting plans to delve into is the relationship between climate change and atmospheric moisture. A warmer planet means the atmosphere can hold more moisture, said Bunting. Which sounds like a good thing given the droughts and wildfires in the West. Just one problem — the rich get richer so to speak when it comes to moisture. And the dry get drier.
“If we could distribute that moisture globally we’d be fine, but that moisture gets concentrated in existing storm zones, and it makes the rain events more severe (in existing zones),” said Bunting.
It’s not all bad news, though. Bunting explained that by investing in infrastructure in a way that takes into account climate change we can mitigate potential disasters and impacts.
When road construction takes place, Bunting said governments in Florida should raise roads to account for flooding. Doing so along evacuation routes might buy residents critical time to escape a storm event. Similarly, Bunting explained that urban development needs to take into account rising temperatures, which can be mitigated by keeping breezeways open and not blocking coastal breezes with skyscrapers.
Some in Sarasota have already bought into CAC’s philosophy. CAC’s Feb. 15 Climate Champions Awards ceremony will recognize area leaders and the progress that’s already been made thanks to their alignment with CAC’s mission and values.
“There's so many things we can do,” said Bunting. “That’s the exciting thing. If we do know, then we must do.”
James Peter is the managing editor of the Longboat and Sarasota Observers. He has worked in journalism in a variety of newsroom roles and as a freelance writer for over a decade. Before joining the Observer, he was based in Montana and Colorado.