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Local scientists and activists predict climate change will have big impact on the Suncoast

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SARASOTA, Fla. -- The environment and Suncoast waters are crucial aspects of our local economy, but Andy Mele of environmentalist group the Sierra Club predicts changes to that environment due to climate change. 

"If we were to be able to go into a time machine and even go 30 or 40 years into the future, we would see a profound difference," said Mele.

Mele says one of the most tangible aspects of climate change will be an altered coastline. In the last century, ocean levels have risen by up to a foot, increasing coastal flooding. By the end of this century scientists predict a 26-foot rise. 

A rise of only 2 feet would submerge part of Saint Armand's and part of Siesta Key, and if waters hit the top end of predictions at 6 feet, most of the Keys would be gone. 

"This community is vulnerable to the effects of climate change on a number of fronts," said Mele. "Sea level rise is going to effect Florida more profoundly than probably any other part of the United States. 

A recent report by Risky Business found that Florida has more private property at risk from flooding linked to climate change than any other state. By 2030 the report predicts $69 billion in coastal property could flood at high tide. By 2050, that's projected to climb to $152 billion. 

At Mote Marine, Dr. Emily Hall says the effects of climate change on local waters are tangible. She looks at ocean acidification on a month to month basis and says that even in the shorterm, the effects can be felt.

"We're seeing effects on different organisms just in that short of time," said Hall.  

With a community so centered around the water, Hall says it's increasingly important we take steps to preserve what we have here in our backyard. 

"We depend on our waters for livelihood," said Hall. "How many people come to Sarasota to go fishing and to enjoy time on the water? A lot of that may change in the future if we're not careful to protect and preserve the environment that we have."