Like many of its fellow coastal states, Florida is continuing to adapt to changing climate conditions including sea level rise, flooding, and wildfires. In the past several years, the greater Tampa Bay area has directly experienced climate change impacts, including extreme heat and increased flooding. Average annual temperatures have increased by 2.5℉ since 1981 and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) projects the Gulf of Mexico will rise 14 to 18 inches between 2020 to 2050. Numerous cities and counties within the state have already published climate adaptation and resiliency plans, including Miami-Dade County, Broward County, the City of Orlando, and the City of Sarasota. In June of this year, Tampa joined these ranks with the publication with the city’s Climate Action and Equity Plan.
As ASP has written about before, the Tampa Bay area plays a key role for our national security and our military. Specifically, the greater Tampa area is home to MacDill Air Force Base, where U.S. Central Command (USCENTOM), U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), and the 6th Air Refueling Wing reside. The facilities are concentrated in the Tampa Bay area because of its proximity to the Gulf of Mexico, which provides an irreplaceable air and sea training ground. MacDill AFB is already subject to sunny day flooding and tropical cyclones. As such, what happens in Tampa and Florida writ large can directly impact our military’s capability and readiness.
Building on the Mayor’s “Transforming Tampa’s Tomorrow” (T3) initiative and the Resilient Tampa roadmap, Tampa’s plan acknowledges both the impacts from climate change as well as how the city’s energy and transportation infrastructure are contributing to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. It emphasizes the economic importance of addressing climate change as well as the unique topography which creates persistent water management challenges for the city. According to the plan, it is the first time Tampa’s mayor has put climate concerns on the top of the city’s agenda. It has three overarching goals: 1) reduce carbon emissions; 2) build climate-ready infrastructure; and 3) support all people along the way, as well as 10 Flagship Actions cutting across 10 Climate Action Categories. Each has associated actions and goals designed to reduce the city’s emissions and energy use while simultaneously preparing the city to manage the current and impending climate impacts. Although they have no concrete timelines, these categories represent a broad approach to climate resilience, and includes goals for transitioning municipal operations to 100% clean energy, supporting a transition away from fossil fuels in the local economy, planning for future stormwater, reducing vehicle usage, and facilitating improvements in waste management.
Like other parts of the Sunshine state, managing ground water, wastewater, and storm water are central to the safety and resilience in the Tampa Bay area. Saltwater intrusion is already causing challenges for the drinking water supply. Contaminated water leaking from solid waste and wastewater pumping facilities are particularly complex challenges. Management of wastewater effluent has been an acute problem at MacDill AFB. Existing systems do not have the capacity to adequately address climate change fueled increases in severe weather and extreme rainfall. Furthermore, protecting water treatment facilities from flooding is an essential element to enhancing the city’s resilience.
Water treatment facilities account for the top two electricity consuming government facilities, so it makes sense that the plan puts energy front and center of its climate mitigation efforts. In Florida, utilities are regulated by the Florida Public Service Commission. Tampa Electric Company (TECO), the electric utility provider for both the city and for MacDill AFB, is required by state code to create and provide energy. TECO has already significantly reduced emissions by transitioning from coal to natural gas, including by installing a 75MW natural gas plant on MacDill AFB. TECO is beginning to integrate solar power into their market share, and TECO’s parent company, Emera Inc., announced a vision to be net zero by 2050. But as the plan admits, the complex power purchase agreements will make it difficult to accomplish its 100% clean and renewable power goals.
Tampa’s climate work hasn’t stopped there. 45% of Tampa’s carbon emissions come from transportation, so in July, the city unveiled it’s city mobility plan, Tampa MOVES. It has both short-and long-term priorities designed to improve pedestrian and bicycle transportation nodes. From public health improvements to transportation upgrades and deploying nature-based solutions, Tampa is laying the groundwork for a more secure and resilient city—not only benefiting the community but our national security and military.
Climate Security in Focus is a blog series dedicated to exploring key elements of climate security that impact American interests both at home and abroad. The series aims to examine specific aspects of climate security issues in order to better understand climate policy challenges, facilitate conversation, and generate ideas.