President Barack Obama visited the Everglades on Earth Day to highlight the importance of fighting climate change — especially in South Florida.
Wednesday marked the President’s first visit to the region and he took the time to explain why measures to reduce global warming and rising seas are necessary. Rising sea levels pose a significant risk to the Everglades and could erode shorelines and push salty water further inland.
“Climate change is threatening this treasure and the communities that depend on it,” Obama said as he addressed a crowd near the entrance of Everglades National Park. “If we don’t act, there may not be an Everglades as we know it.”
The President’s Earth Day speech was directed at around 150 invited guests, including environmental advocates, Florida leaders and special guests like Bill Nye “The Science Guy.” The speech marked the first presidential visit to Everglades National Park in 14 years.
One of President Obama’s goals for the country is to reduce carbon emissions by 28% by 2025. He has also proposed more funding to protect and promote national parks, including ones like the Everglade National Park in Florida.
President Obama also addressed Congress in his speech to get them to approve his proposal for $240 million in funding for Everglades restoration, stating that nowhere would be more affected by climate change than South Florida.
However, this April also marks the fifth anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill by BP, which affected the waters in the Gulf of Mexico. The BP oil spill marked the worst environmental catastrophe in American history, and the area has yet to fully recover the damage done.
Spills and pollution aren’t uncommon for the nation’s water supply. Around 70% of industrial waste is dumped into usable water supplies, and this contamination often requires surface and groundwater remediation systems to provide safe, clean drinking water to Americans.
Yet the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico spilled more than 200 million gallons of oil into coastal waters. The explosion that caused the spill led to 11 human deaths and killed hundreds of thousands of dolphins, birds and other wildlife.
And despite President Obama’s commitment to the Everglades region, he also suggested opening up the Atlantic coast to new offshore drilling last week.
Obama’s message was hopeful to the group at Everglades National Park, however. He called the region’s climate action plan “a model not just for the country, but for the world.”
The area is at risk for both flooding and decreasing the amount of freshwater, which provides drinking water for South Floridians, due to incoming saltwater.