Yesterday, the "I Will" bus tour made its way along the Gulf Coast to highlight the local impacts of extreme weather â€“ from superstorms to record breaking heat. As temperatures soared, residents, scientists, local public officials and a representative from the local arm of EPA came together to highlight the local costs of climate change and the president's plan to address it.
In Pensacola, where the local heat index nearly surpassed 100 degrees, a local representative of the League of Women Voters and climate scientist, Mary Gutierrez, talked of the city developing its own climate action plan, heavy on coastal resiliency in a place that is often in the path of the worst storms. On Pensacola Beach, on one of the outermost barrier islands, longtime resident and surfer Barry Goodson contrasted today's beaches with those of years prior, noting how rising sea levels have deteriorated the Florida coast. City Councilman Larry Johnson joined them, applauding the president's climate action plan, and calling on local lawmakers to protect the state from the devastating effects of climate change.
The bus then traveled to Mobile, Alabama, where a looming thunderstorm whipped up the surf along the USS Alabama Battleship Park as Park Commissioner Robert Eddington recounted the destruction left behind by Hurricane Katrina eight years ago. He painted the picture of a military plane tossed into a nearby residential swimming pool, while the iconic Battleship that serves as the focal point of the park stood battered -- sustaining millions of dollars in damages. As the storm drew closer, A. Stanley Meiburg, EPA Region 4 Administrator, talked of how climate change has increased the intensity of storms, but ended on a hopeful note, as news broke that the U.S. Senate had approved Gina McCarthy to lead the EPA. With her leadership, he said, the EPA will vigorously work to address climate change and make sure communities like Mobile are protected from the worst effects.