The Red Bluff community flooded along the Waccamaw River and Simpsons Creek under Hurricane Florence’s deluge, with entire neighborhoods underwater on Monday, Sept. 24, 2018. Image by Jason Lee. United States, 2018.

This letter features reporting from "'Beyond the Beach' Project Helps Expose Climate Change Dangers Across the Carolinas" by The Charlotte Observer editorial board

Dear Congressman Diaz-Balart,

North Carolina recently has been suffering from a number of significant and damaging weather events. Hurricanes and sea surges have destroyed houses and broken communities. Indeed, in that state a new initiative, known as the "Beyond the Beach" project, is helping the public understand the dangers of the root cause of these more frequent severe weather events: climate change. The series, according to an article written for The Charlotte Observer with the support of the Pulitzer Center by The Observer's editorial board, states that the growth of dangerous bacteria in waterways, such as the "flesh-eating" vibrio, is accelerated by a warming climate, which from a 47.2 degrees average minimum in the 20th century has increased to a 50 degree average minimum in the last five years. Mold has expanded in homes and buildings in the aftermath of great hurricanes like Irene and Matthew, causing breathing problems for people exposed to it and putrid odors, making living or working in those buildings an untenable situation. The effect on farmworkers, elaborated on by an article written for The News and Observer by Wagner and Aaron Sanchez-Guerra, is terrible as well, as their grower-provided housing commonly lacks air conditioning, causing health dangers to arise for this vulnerable group. 

You might say, “That’s all sad to hear, young man, but what does this have to do with Florida?” Well, the situation in North Carolina is a mere microcosm of the greater global challenge of climate change, which will hit Florida harder than anywhere else in the United States. It is safe to say that Florida is far more prone to hurricanes than pretty much every other state in the United States, including North Carolina. Thus, with climate change’s amplification of the effects of hurricanes, it is reasonable to expect that Florida will suffer even more than North Carolina in this regard. The expansion of mold is a significant concern, but Florida suffers far more, in my opinion, from the sea surge caused by hurricanes, especially considering how low-lying the majority of the state is. The Miami area, which includes cities in your district like Doral and Sweetwater, is especially vulnerable. In the long-term, climate change’s increase in global temperature will cause an increase in global sea levels. This increase has already been seen recently, Rebecca Lindsey of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported an increase of around 0.14 inches per year from 2006-2016. That does not seem like much, until you consider that the average per year before that was 0.06 inches per year, and this last year the increase was around 0.24 inches. These averages appear to be increasing, and in time, flooding will become far more common than it already is. In the more distant future, much of Florida may even be underwater (though this is the worst-case scenario).

Mr. Diaz, I am writing because these issues need to be talked about and rectified. These are incredibly important issues for the future of Florida. How do we fix them? By pushing through legislation that attempts to increase the clean energy production of the nation. Initiating a transition towards electric cars in the future. Reducing the amount of fracking and energy extraction around the country. This is what is necessary to diminish and eventually eliminate these problems, not only in Florida but around the world. And this needs to happen now, lest it becomes far too late to take any meaningful action. On behalf of the youth of Florida, please take us into account. As the son of a Republican voter, know that many Republicans care about these issues as well. And as a prospective Democrat voter, know that I will use my vote against you, in due time, if you don’t take sufficient action against these potentially devastating issues.

Thank you,

Matthew Gomez

Matthew Gomez is a sophomore at Doral Academy High School in Miami, Florida, where he was born and raised. As hobbies, he enjoys playing strategy video games like Hearts of Iron IV and Football Manager, reading books, and listening to 90s hip-hop. He would almost certainly not have known about the competition’s very existence were it not for his English teacher, Mr. Dearing, who pushed the entire class to enter the contest. Gomez likes to believe he styles his writing on George Orwell, author of his two favorite books, and his wish is to write quite as politically effectively as Orwell, using it as a valuable tool to predict, effect, and warn about change in the world.

Read more winning entries from the 2020 Local Letters for Global Change contest!