- A group of scientists and academics are urging the City of Jacksonville, FL to draft a climate action plan and hire a chief resilience officer or sustainability officer to oversee the initiative. Jacksonville, they say, is the only major city in Florida that doesn't have such an official or climate plan.
- In a letter to Mayor Lenny Curry, 11 professors from University of North Florida, Jacksonville University and Florida State College say that Jacksonville faces significant threats from rising sea levels, including damage to infrastructure, as well as extreme heat.
- The professors say the climate plan should be developed "as quickly as possible" and should contain steps to adapt to changing conditions and to reduce emissions.
Despite the lack of a climate plan, Jacksonville has acknowledged the threat that climate change poses, especially around sea level rise. The city convened an Adaptation Action Area Working Group, which this spring recommended several steps to protect the city from rising seas and flooding from the St. Johns River.
Adam Rosenblatt, an assistant professor of biology at the University of North Florida (UNF) and one of the signatories of the letter, said those were good first steps, but that Jacksonville needed a more holistic view. For example, he noted that the city's flooding plan would not address heat waves or health issues associated with climate change.
"The value of a Chief Resilience Officer (CRO) to Jacksonville is that this person can view the climate crisis in a big picture way, not just as many separate risks but as interrelated risks as well," Rosenblatt said in an email. "A good CRO can bring together resources and individuals from across many state and city departments to develop coordinated strategies for tackling the many serious climate-related issues that cities like Jacksonville are going to continue to face for many years to come."
Rosenblatt said he has heard from "about a quarter" of the city council members, but not from Curry. The mayor's office did not respond to a request for comment.
Gov. Ron DeSantis, R-FL, this summer named Julia Nesheiwat to be the state’s first chief resilience officer, tasked with preparing the state for "environmental, physical and economic impacts of sea level rise." Other cities in the state have been working to write or update their plans; Miami, for example, has been holding a series of community meetings to inform its new adaptation and mitigation plan.
In the absence of federal leadership on climate change, city and regional climate plans have taken on more importance, with many even passing their own versions of the Green New Deal.