City finds receptive audience for climate change forum
As he addressed about 100 area residents attending a public forum about climate change, Sarasota City Manager Tom Barwin noted that the discussion could not have come at a more appropriate time.
“We’re in a new era,” Barwin told the crowd, noting that weekend rains put some local areas in 15 inches of water and an ongoing storm continues to inundate the Texas coast. “We need to be proactive.”
Using their cellphones and other devices, the audience participated in a poll throughout the program, with 79 percent agreeing that the Sarasota area is “already experiencing” and 21 percent saying it is “very likely” to experience “negative impacts” associated with climate change.
“It is of great importance for us as a coastal community ... to get in front of it,” City Commissioner Willie Shaw told the audience at the Robert Taylor Community Complex.
Stevie Freeman-Montes, the city’s sustainability manager, presented the overall results of an inventory of nearly 220 public assets within the city limits.
She and the city departments responsible for maintaining much of that infrastructure examined “where we’re vulnerable.”
The report is based on the latest “intermediate” and “intermediate high” projections by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that, by 2050, the city could experience sea level rise ranging from 12 to 18 inches. The projections are based on “the historic rate of change” at NOAA’s St. Petersburg tide gauge, Freeman-Montes said.