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St. Augustine Mayor: You Can Address Sea Level Rise Without Talking Climate Change

Ryan Benk

St. Augustine Mayor Nancy Shaver addressed the U.S. Green Building Council Thursday in Jacksonville.

She argues the most effective strategy for spurring action to fight sea-level rise is making the business case. And, the Democratic mayor of the nation’s oldest city said in her experience, steering clear of the term “climate change” helps keep politics from getting in the way of policy.

“The minute you go there, you aren’t able to focus on the issues at hand, which are really, ‘What is it that we do to adapt and to build a new?’” She said.

Shaver has been a vocal advocate for resiliency planning, even becoming vice chair of the nascent organization Resiliency Florida. The group’s mission is connecting local politicians and businesses to combat rising tides and worsening storm surges.

After President Donald Trump recently backed out of the international Paris Accord aimed at reducing carbon emissions, dozens of U.S. cities have symbolically declared support for the agreement.

But Shaver echoes a report on Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry’s view: those declarations are just lip service.

“We’re kind of a practical city. We take positions that really are ones we can put some teeth into. In terms of how we act as a city, we don’t really have a program around CO2,” she said. “We don’t do those things.”

Instead, Shaver says she’s interested in getting buy-in from businesses to find “free-market solutions” to help her city adapt to rising seas.

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Ryan Benk can be reached at, 904-358-6319 or on Twitter @RyanMichaelBenk

Ryan Benk is a former WJCT News reporter who joined the station in 2015 after working as a news researcher and reporter for NPR affiliate WFSU in Tallahassee.