TAMPA, Fla. -- As the Trump administration considers sweeping budget cuts that would threaten environmental protections nationwide, hundreds of Tampa Bay residents joined elected officials and organizations for the Tampa Bay People’s Climate March to call on Tampa to commit 100% clean, renewable energy.
“Sea level rise is easily documented in local tide gauge data, and the Tampa Bay measurements show a steady rise in sea levels,” said recently retired Hillsborough County Environmental Protection Commission Executive Director Dr. Rick Garrity, who spoke at the event. “The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration intermediate sea level rise projections warn of a rise of 3-4.5 feet by 2100. We need to do all we can to decrease climate-warming activities and prepare climate adaptation plans to protect our natural shoreline and our man-made infrastructure.”
Protesters and rally-goers carried colorful signs and toured an art and science installation focusing on climate change. The hundreds of Tampa Bay residents are among the range of voices, including frontline communities, labor unions, immigrants, veterans, students, and faith communities, from across the country who share a goal of shifting to 100% renewable energy. This rally took place in solidarity with a national People’s Climate March on D.C.
“Climate change aggravates existing problems such as poverty, social tensions, and environmental degradation,” said Jerry Green, Florida outreach director with VoteVets.org. “The President needs to acknowledge climate change for the urgent threat it poses to Florida and our country’s armed forces.”
Other speakers at the event included Md. Ashiqur Rahman, the Provost's Postdoctoral Scholar in the Department of Anthropology at the University of South Florida. In his speech, Rahman talked about the situation in Bangladesh, where climate change is hitting especially hard despite the country contributing only 0.3 percent of carbon emissions.
“For the Bangladeshi population, climate change is not a future phenomenon but rather an everyday reality,” said Rahman. “In terms of sea level rise, Tampa Bay is vulnerable like Bangladesh. If we want to avoid catastrophic impact of climate change we need to act right now, because emission doesn’t know political boundary.”
There is good news regarding renewable energy like solar power: it’s a powerful job creator. According to The Solar Foundation, Florida’s solar industry created more than 1,700 new jobs in 2016, and more than 1,200 of those jobs were in the Tampa Bay and Clearwater areas. Even so, Florida has a long way to go when it comes to clean energy. The Solar Energy Industries Association reports that Florida is third in the country for rooftop solar energy potential—but 13th in the amount of energy it actually generates from this source.
“For far too long, Florida has lagged behind others in unleashing solar potential, renewable energy and energy efficiency that would create jobs, save consumers money and reduce carbon pollution,” said U.S. Representative Kathy Castor. “Solar and wind jobs are now growing at a rate 12 times as fast as the rest of the U.S. economy, but our state’s utility monopolies have a stranglehold on Florida’s ability to expand clean energy initiatives -- at the expense of jobs, businesses and our neighbors.”
The People’s Climate March comes days after a state senate committee approved a controversial measure that would allow utility companies to use ratepayer dollars to invest in out of state oil and gas companies, and as the legislature refuses to hear a bill that would ban fracking in Florida.
“Florida’s governor and legislature have the opportunity to help the nation become the world's clean energy superpower, which would be a win for Floridians and rest of the country,” added Rep. Castor. “The ‘Sunshine’ State should be a proud leader in this arena, not an ironic laggard!”
This rally featured over two dozen groups, including Organize Florida, Sierra Club Florida, Environment Florida, Women's March Florida - Pinellas & Hillsborough Counties, Florida Indigenous Rights and Environmental Equality, National Nurses United, For Florida’s Future, Florida Suncoast Sierra Club, Tampa Bay Sierra Club, LULAC Council #7250 & #7259, Florida Immigrant Coalition, Sunshine Citizens, Food & Water Watch - Florida, The Climate Mobilization, Fight for 15 Florida, Center for Biological Diversity - St. Pete, Action Together Tampa Bay, Surly Feminists for the Revolution, St. Pete Women's Collective, Physicians for Social Responsibility - Florida Chapter, Tampa Bay Buddhist Climate Action Network, Mad Science of Greater Tampa Bay, Poor People's Economic Human Rights Campaign Florida, Refuge Ministries Tampa Bay/International and the Revolutionary Road Radio show.