First international conference on climate change to take center stage in South Florida

Event kicks off Monday in Miami Beach

The Climate Action movement is coming to Miami.

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. – The Climate Action movement is coming to Miami.

Beginning Monday, an international forum on climate change will take center stage right here in South Florida with Miami Beach hosting the first ever Aspen Ideas conference on climate action.

“It’s really important. I mean, the whole South Florida community is going to be impacted by the impacts of climate change. And so, the more that we can do now, the better off they’ll be in 5,10, 20 years,” said Greg Gershuny, Executive Director of Energy & Environment at the Aspen Institute.

The global nonprofit Aspen Institute will be programming their Ideas summit for four days beginning Monday with many of the world’s leading thinkers, policy makers, scientists, business and tech leaders, conservationists and activists descending on Miami Beach, widely believed to be ground zero for the places already experiencing the global impacts of climate change.

“This is not going to be about doom and gloom, this is going to be about hope and optimism,” Gershuny said. “We have the technologies, we have the policies that we need to solve the climate crisis -- we just need to have the courage and the coalitions to do it.”

“There will be a lot of programming in the convention center -- both here and the New World campus,” Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber said.

Gelber is urging all South Florida residents to be a part of these very important conversations, either in person or by watching the livestream online, with some of the big ticket events being simulcast for free on the giant wall outside the New World Center at Soundscape Park.

It’s so important since we are all part of the solution.

“We want to make it democratized so that everybody can participate because this is, by the way, not a problem for some people, and not everyone -- this is a challenge for the whole world, and it’s important that the whole world find a way to put their arms around it and gather and muster the political will to solve it,” Gelber said.

And it’s not the first global climate forum to zero in on South Florida.

“We’ve been very effective at sounding the alarm here and around the world,” Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said.

On Monday, over 100 local, national and global leaders met at the Adrienne Arsht Center in downtown Miami for a conference on global resilience.

“It’s high time that we have this conversation,” Arsht, a philanthropist and grand patron of the arts, said. “The sea rise that we see here just on Miami Beach, we’ve known about it for quite a while.”

Not just that, but South Florida, like the rest of planet, is getting hotter.

On average, South Florida has been experiencing an increase of 2 degrees Fahrenheit every year since 1985 combined with increased humidity.

This prompted Miami-Dade to officially launch a Miami heat season public service campaign from May 1 to Halloween -- and we’re not talking basketball.

“It’s critical,” Miami-Dade Chief Heat Officer Jane Gilbert said. “Historically, we’ve had seven days a year with a heat index of 105 -- over the next 30 years, that’s going to go to 88 days.”

Now with Aspen bringing the climate action movement here, the eyes of the entire world will be watching to see how South Florida steps up.

“We can learn from others, but we want others to come and learn from us, and Aspen is bringing people from all around the world to share ideas and best practices, and what better place then right here,” Levine Cava said.

“The alarms have been ringing loud for many, many years,” said Yoca Arditi-Rocha, Executive Director of the Cleo Institute. “I think finally it’s becoming more mainstream, and obviously we’re seeing the real impacts out of our windows, whether it’s extreme heat, whether it’s rising sea levels, whether it’s chronic flooding during a sunny day -- we’re just seeing the real impacts of the climate crisis as we speak.”

And since this will be an ongoing mission, this is just the first of many Aspen Ideas conferences on climate that will happen here in South Florida.

Miami Beach’s mayor calls it the Art Basel of the climate action movement, with more than just conversations, but art installations, concerts and social gatherings that will be happening all over town.

Click here to view a full schedule of the Aspen Ideas conference, including information on how to purchase tickets and how to watch online.

About the Author:

Louis Aguirre is an Emmy-award winning journalist who anchors weekday newscasts and serves as WPLG Local 10’s Environmental Advocate.