Earth’s climate is changing. Northeast Florida felt that change when two hurricanes, Matthew and Irma, struck within a year and left a wake of destruction after mass flooding.
New Climate Reality Leaders are partnering to raise awareness of the climate crisis and find solutions. Elyse Brady and Karen Ford, St. Augustine Beach residents, recently earned “Green Ring” Certifications upon completing the 2020 Climate Reality Leadership Corps Training. Led by former Vice President Al Gore, the 9-day training was delivered online due to COVID-19 to almost 8,000 participants from around the globe.
Brady and Ford have joined with Climate Reality Leader Miguel Peters, from Nigeria, Africa, who spearheads AFRIGOD, an initiative that combines sports programs with climate action. Miguel is also an Ambassador to the organization, “We Don’t Have Time,” the largest social network for climate action, based in Sweden.
The three Climate Reality Leaders met through the recent training and have been collaborating online to develop partnership opportunities that enhance understanding of the climate crisis issue within their communities.
Climate change is being driven by increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases, primarily due to burning fossil fuels: oil, coal and natural gas. “The greenhouse gases act like a blanket around the Earth, trapping heat and warming the planet,” said Ford, an adjunct faculty member at Flagler College.
“We have also cut down trees in forests at an alarming rate,” Ford added. Forests absorb and store carbon dioxide as carbon sinks — a natural process that removes the gas from the atmosphere and helps keep the climate systems stable, which is now crucial in mitigating the climate crisis.
“The biggest risk to African growth is climate change and the most important political debate should be on how to deal with this risk, because it threatens everything,” said Peters.
Of immediate concern to Florida, Ford noted, are rising ocean temperatures. This creates conditions for more intense hurricanes, shifting weather patterns that stall and dump huge amounts of rain, and melting ice that is driving sea level rise.
In the training, Al Gore, Nobel Prize recipient and author of the bestselling book “An Inconvenient Truth,” highlighted the many intersections between racial, social and climate justice and the current health pandemic, issues he suggested should be incorporated into a sweeping COVID-19 recovery plan.
“So many of our friends and neighbors have endured the trauma of global warming,” said Brady, an artist who lost her Davis Shores home after Hurricane Matthew. “We all have a responsibility to leave a better world for the next generation and to take our roles as stewards of this planet to heart.”