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'Act now': Former NWS meteorologist says Tampa Bay area should take steps against climate change fast

Future forecasts showing the effects of warming show the bay and its surrounding areas will be 3 feet underwater in 2040 without mitigation.

TAMPA, Fla. — Year after year it's gotten worse while scientists study the impact on Florida.

"Climate change and climate warming is not a theory. It is already measured. We're measuring it every day," Robert Bunting said.

The former National Weather Service meteorologist says the state could be in for a rude awakening.

"While the forecasts can change with time, we should be prepared for what is most likely to happen. Unfortunately, we're not prepared for that," Bunting said.

The biggest concern is sea-level rise. Bunting says Tampa Bay and its surrounding areas have already swelled 9 inches. His forecast for the area in 2040 shows most coastal areas three feet underwater.

"In 30 years from now, it's going to be too late for us to really manage sea-level rise in this area in any significant way. If we can tone down our carbon footprints, and we can reach net zero by 2050, sea-level rise in Florida will be more manageable than it will be if we don't. If we don't, it's going to be pretty serious," Bunting said.

Flooding and major storms are the other worry, with the number of tropical storms doubling the last two hurricane seasons.

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"These hurricanes becoming more intense and more of them, and their paths becoming more erratic. Because they're slowing down, we could have an errant hurricane out in the gulf that takes a b-line to our shorelines and explodes into a category five hurricane in a short amount of time, where we don't have much reaction time," Bunting said.

While the state plans to invest millions to fight climate warming, Bunting says it's not enough and the solution is to cut down on carbon emissions fast. Meaning more solar panels, electric cars and clean energy sources.

"The United States is doing a fairly good job, we've already reduced our carbon footprint by 20 percent since 2005, most people don't realize that. Unfortunately, climate warming is now rapid, it's too rapid. We need to get our act together now and get out in front of it because what we're good at is reacting to a disaster that's happened and not preventing one that will happen if we don't act," Bunting said.

That's why lawmakers and scientists will be meeting in Sarasota on November 19th for the Florida Climate Forecast Conference. There they'll look at things that we can implement to put Tampa Bay in a better spot in the future. Scientists encourage everyone to attend either in person or virtually.

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