This month is Jacksonville Climate Month, which state and local advocacy organizations are using to raise awareness around issues related to climate change and sea level rise in Northeast Florida.
The effort is being spearheaded by Rethink Energy Florida, which organized the first climate month in Miami last year.
Rethink Energy Florida, founded in 2010, is a Tallahassee based nonprofit focused on shifting the state away from fossil fuels and toward renewable energy to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.
Executive Director Kim Ross says they recently started organizing under a broader umbrella called Florida Climate Voices, a coalition of organizations working together to increase awareness of climate change in the state.
“Jacksonville Climate Month is an effort to raise awareness in that area around climate change and sea level rise and the issues that the citizens in the Northeast Florida area are facing every day,” Ross explained.
Rethink Energy Florida started planning Jacksonville Climate Month after President Donald Trump announced that parts of the Republican National Convention would be held here.
“When the President pulled out because of COVID-19, we decided that it was still important to continue the education and awareness that we were building,” Ross said.
Events are all online and they will continue in Jacksonville even after the end of the month.
Some events have already happened, but more are scheduled for the second half of August, including a virtual happy hour for climate organizers in Jacksonville that’s currently in the works.
While working with locals and supporting organizations, like the St. Johns Riverkeeper, Ross said she has learned a lot about the community.
“It’s really exciting to start working with the groups that are on the ground in Jacksonville, and it's been really a good experience to talk about where we need to focus our energy in Jacksonville, and then beyond Jacksonville for the broader Florida Climate Voices,” she said. “It's been a good experience to really talk about how we can raise awareness in a fairly conservative area and start having that conversation.”
Based on what she’s seen so far, Ross says residents and activists appear to be just as concerned about climate change in Jacksonville as they are in other areas of the state, but she thinks elected officials may not be.
“I would say that the local government and the leaders there, both at the local and state level, tend to not be as tuned in as some other areas,” Ross said. But she added leaders are starting to take some action, pointing to the City Council’s Special Committee on Resiliency.
A priority at this point for Ross is to make climate change an issue that goes beyond party lines.
“It’s not a party issue,” she said. “It's something that Floridians have to deal with, and we have to figure out the best way to deal with it.”