Our Climate Work
Climate change has changed Florida permanently and irreversibly. Friends of the Everglades advocates on behalf of one of the most climate-vulnerable ecosystems in Florida and across the globe. We are on the front lines of advocacy to address climate impacts, including:
- More rapid proliferation of Harmful Algal Blooms. Higher air and water temperatures have corresponding effects on cyanobacteria bloom timing, duration and intensity. Cyanobacteria, commonly known as blue-green algae, poses an acute public health threat via airborne and waterborne toxins. We have worked since 2019 on a better Lake Okeechobee management plan to curtail discharges of these toxic algae blooms to populated areas and sensitive estuaries.
- Accelerated saltwater intrusion. Sea-level rise poses a risk to the drinking water of some 9 million South Florida residents who depend on underground freshwater sources. Sea-level rise is projected to push saltwater inland at twice the rate it would otherwise move — bringing new urgency to Friends of the Everglades’ decades of advocacy to deliver more clean, freshwater south from Lake Okeechobee to the Everglades.
- Pressure to develop low-lying areas. Some of the last remaining green spaces in Miami-Dade County are under intense development pressure. In Homestead, which is situated between Everglades National Park and Biscayne National Park, we have worked to oppose the conversion of farmland in the Coastal High Hazard Zone to dense industrial development. We are co-founders of the Hold the Line Coalition, which is dedicated to preventing sprawl that will intensify flooding and other climate impacts.
- Water-management challenges. Projections of more erratic and higher annual rainfall will intensify water wars in Florida. The sugarcane industry has long used Lake Okeechobee as its personal reservoir, at the expense of environmental water supply and public health. Our work on a more equitable Lake Okeechobee management plan is pushing back against that status quo, with a clear-eyed recognition that climate change will make water management in Florida more competitive.
- Ecological impacts. The ecological impacts of climate change on the Greater Everglades are diverse and visible. Mangroves forests, which play a critical role in carbon sequestration and shoreline protection, are struggling to adapt to climate change. Coral reefs are bleaching and dying as temperatures rise. Sea-level rise exposes the sawgrass and peat marshes of the Everglades to saltwater, causing peat soil to collapse and release carbon dioxide.
- Sugarcane burning. Pre-harvest burning of some 400,000 acres of sugarcane in Florida is a source of carbon emissions and particulate matter that disproportionately impacts blue-collar communities of color south of Lake Okeechobee. This is the most egregious environmental injustice in Florida, and Friends of the Everglades is pushing for an end to pre-harvest sugarcane burning in Florida, with the goal of replacing it with safer “green harvesting.”