With US pulling out of climate change pact, rising sea levels a serious concern in Pinellas County

Global climate change pact now in jeopardy
Posted at 6:22 PM, May 31, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-01 10:44:06-04

A senior White House official tells ABC News that President Donald Trump is poised to drop out of the Paris Climate Accord.

The non-binding international agreement was designed to help slow global climate change. It went into effect last year and calls for countries to set goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, reports ABC News.

The news from the White House has many in the Tampa Bay Area more concerned than ever about sea levels.

One of the environmental impacts of a rising global average temperature is the melting of the polar ice caps, say experts, which is causing water levels to rise globally.

The Accord set a goal of limiting the global temperature from rising much more.

According to the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), practically all of our Bay Area beaches could be under water by the end of the century; estimates have the sea levels around Florida rising by about 5 feet.

The effects of rising sea levels are already being seen in places like St. Pete Beach.

"This is what we call an erosion hotspot. That means it erodes pretty fast," explains Dr. Ping Wang, a USF Professor and the director of the school's Coastal Research Lab.

Dr. Wang was on Upham Beach today in St. Pete Beach showing students how to study beach erosion, which, along with rising sea levels, threatens much of the property and infrastructure along the Pinellas County coastline.

"One of the official reasons for beach nourishment is actually to protect the infrastructure behind," says Dr. Wang. "Obviously if you have a wider beach it would absorb waves, storm conditions a little bit better."

Residents along the Pinellas coast tell ABC Action News they are surprised President Trump would not be as concerned as they are about rising sea levels.

"He's also a resident of Florida and this is how we get most of our money, is through tourism," says Marilyn Allen, who retired to the Pass-a-Grille Beach a few years ago. "If you don't have the beaches, you don't have people coming here," Allen tells ABC Action News. 

Trump has repeatedly called into question the science behind climate change, once calling it a "very expensive hoax." During his campaign, Trump said he would "cancel" the Paris agreement and his administration has ordered cuts to funding for climate science.

The agreement was signed by former Secretary of State John Kerry on Earth Day, April 22, 2016 on the U.S. behalf. President Obama signed it into law via executive action, bypassing the then Republican-controlled Senate.

After the conference, each country set its own "Nationally Determined Contributions" (NDCs) and agreed to report its progress regularly on decreasing greenhouse gas emissions. To remain in the deal, the U.S. must cut its emissions by 26 percent from 2005 levels by 2025.