OPEN LETTER FROM A FLORIDIAN TO FLORIDA MAYORS:
“My concern about Climate Change and Sea level rise”
By: Maria Mercedes Hernandez
Climate change is a pronounced environmental challenge that threatens us all equally, so I consider it of great importance, not only to read your open letter sent to Senator Marco Rubio dated January 21, 2016, but also to express my comments. In this letter, you expressed your concerned about Climate Change and Sea Level rise in South Florida and you call Senator Marco Rubio to acknowledge the problem and articulate a Climate action plan. As a Floridian, I share your concerned and I support your vision: I believe urgent actions have to be taken in order to mitigate the effects of Climate Change to protect the future of South Florida.
I agree with you, the next president of the United States must acknowledge the reality and urgency of climate change. Not only to propose solutions, but to project the US in a leading position on the new low carbon global economy of the 21st century. However, 2016 is a Presidential Election year, which means interest groups are constantly looking for and using any and all weaknesses to disqualify candidates. My concern, then, is that you are using an incredibly important issue as a political wedge – seeking to divide, rather than unite. Climate Change can’t afford to wait for a new President, the time is now; the solution is in your hands as community leaders to create awareness and also in the desire of each of his residents to provide solutions.
Combating climate change must be more than just a political buzzword; it is a global issue that requires an aggressive campaign to inform the public about the potential devastating consequences. There is no point having a Climate Action plan in our cities, or a policy of low carbon or participate in the COP21 meeting and sign a global treaty to keep global temperatures levels below 2° Celsius, if we are not first educating why such steps are necessary. The risk associated with energy waste, the terrible consequences of lack of recycling, the need to conserve water and the urgency about reducing our carbon footprint. The issue of climate change goes beyond a political issue; it is a problem that lies in the lack of awareness in our communities, schools and our own homes.
Allow me to take a moment to introduce myself, my name is Maria Mercedes Hernandez; my experience as a disaster inspector in NJ during the aftermath of Sandy awakened in me the interest to understand and find solutions to the problems of buildings destruction caused by severe weather events. At the same time to recognized the importance of creating awareness and educating homeowners about sustainable and resilient construction to mitigate the effects of climate change. This urgency to find solutions made me get my certification as a professional in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED AP ID + C) which allows me to understand problems related to the standard construction and the real and hidden value of efficient buildings.
Consider the following: 72% of buildings in the United States have been built inefficiently, without taking into account the relationship between energy use and environmental impact. 40% of total energy consumption in the US is consumed by residential and commercial buildings, which produces a lot of greenhouse gases (main contributor for climate change and in turn the rise in sea levels). As certified general contractor in Florida and LEED AP I’ve found lack of information in our communities, on the importance of implementation of energy efficiency, conservation or fortification in the properties to be a direct cause to inaction. The lack of information on programs that help its implementation such as the PACE program, among others, continues to be dismissed. This issue represents many challenges, but also a great opportunity for the State of Florida in their fight to mitigate climate change.
Humbly, I asked all of you to continue to encourage Senator Rubio & others running for President of the United States about the urgency of Climate Change, but beyond that I think it is necessary and proper for all of you Mayors to push the issue at a local level. Through information we can achieve greatness. Start the conversation about a PACE program in your city; create educational forums in libraries about property retrofit and sustainable construction as a solution to climate change, also, inform about tax credit, incentives, and financing available for implementation. Encourage citizens to support Floridians for Solar Choice; demand an end to fracking in the Everglades. Become certified as a STAR community, to lead in sustainability. Let’s start from the ground up with the people.
I congratulate some cities Mayors, who have taken this challenge of Climate Change as priority, but there are still other cities that have been left behind without seeing the need for urgency. The future of our state will be at risk until all the cities in Florida, support a Climate action plan and informed its residents about it.
It is my wish to see the State of Florida leading as the first state in solar energy nationwide with more buildings and schools certified LEED, with the highest recycling rate in the nation, as a state with the lowest carbon footprint and better quality of life. A leader in sustainability is not due to government policy but by the desire and the participation of each of its inhabitants to assume the challenge implementing solutions for a better life.
Maria M. Hernandez