Environment

Obama Everglades trip to highlight week focusing on climate change

In this 1997 photo, Shark River empties into the Gulf of Mexico at Ponce De Leon Bay in Everglades National Park.
In this 1997 photo, Shark River empties into the Gulf of Mexico at Ponce De Leon Bay in Everglades National Park. Miami Herald Staff

When President Barack Obama makes his first visit to the Florida Everglades on Earth Day this Wednesday, he will be midway through a week spent highlighting the risks of climate change and using a state considered among the nation’s most vulnerable as his best example.

Throughout the week, Obama will outline risks to the economy and ways in which his administration is spending money and resources to fight what has increasingly become a priority, his staff said Monday.

Obama chose to use the Everglades as his backdrop to show risks that remain intangible for much of the country but are already being felt in low-lying South Florida, policy advisor Brian Deese said in an email. High water during annual King tides routinely flood coastal areas like Miami Beach and Fort Lauderdale. Saltwater intrusion from rising seas increasingly threatens drinking water supplies.

“Climate change can no longer be denied,” Obama said in his weekly address Saturday.

Yet for the state’s governor, it remains a matter of debate. Last year, Gov. Rick Scott said he was not convinced rising sea levels were caused by human activity. Recently, he has come under attack after news stories said he banned his staff from using the term climate change, which Scott has denied.

Climate change in the state considered by many to be ground zero could also draw more attention since two Republicans vying for president in the 2016 election come from South Florida.

Likely candidate Jeb Bush has recognized the threat of climate change while remaining skeptical. Marco Rubio, by contrast, recognizes the climate is changing but has squarely positioned himself in the camp that questions the science behind its ties to human activity.

Obama’s visit Wednesday means the some of the park’s most popular spots will be off-limits to the public.

The Anhinga Trail, along with the Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center and park headquarters will be closed beginning at midnight Tuesday and until 5:30 p.m. Wednesday. Parts of the main park road will also be closed from 2:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., from the main entrance to the Long Pine Key campground.

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