Few places teach us more about our world than the Florida Everglades, where water, sunlight, land and life mix to create the magnificent diversity in the natural systems we depend on to survive.
All of that is threatened by climate change, in a way that mirrors the wider danger we face from the central environmental challenge of our time.
Rising sea levels are turning freshwater marshland into saltwater coves in coastal parts of the Everglades like Cape Sable. Saltwater intruding into the porous limestone underneath the Everglades threatens fresh drinking-water supplies for seven million Floridians. And drought puts a crimp in the seasonal rains that renew fresh-water supplies each year, even as rising temperatures increase demand for its use.
Those early-warning signs of climate change will be on display today when President Obama journeys to the Everglades for an Earth Day speech about the growing dangers of climate change.
Rising seas, drought and extreme temperatures are just part of the package of peril we face unless we cut the dangerous carbon pollution that's driving climate chaos.
Obama's Clean Power Plan can strike a real blow against the central environmental challenge of our time, by helping to clean up the dirty power plants that account for 40 percent of the nation's carbon footprint.
Under the plan, we can cut power-plant carbon pollution 26 percent by 2020 and 30 percent by 2030, when compared with 2005 levels. We can do even better than that, but what matters most is that we get started now.
The Environmental Protection Agency, charged with implementing the plan, has laid out clear carbon-reduction targets that reflect each state's specific energy mix.
What's critical now is for states to decide how to reach those goals, while power companies determine the most cost-effective way to hit the targets.
Some may opt to promote energy efficiency, so families and businesses can do more with less. An NRDC analysis finds we can create more than 274,000 jobs, while helping households and businesses save more than $37 billion a year on their electric bills, by improving efficiency.
Other power companies may, for instance, tune up aging generating capacity to reduce their carbon footprint, get more power from the wind and sun, or any combination of all these ideas.
The important thing is that we get the job done.
Last year was the hottest since record-keeping began in 1880. The 16 hottest years have all occurred since 1997. And the first quarter of this year was the hottest ever.
We can't wait any longer to act. The stakes are too high for that. That's the message from the Everglades this Earth Day -- and we hear it loud and clear.
This post is part of a Huffington Post What's Working series on the environment. The series is putting a spotlight on initiatives and solutions that are actually making a difference -- whether in the battle against climate change, or tackling pollution or other environmental challenges. To see all the posts in the series, read here.