Sebastian Vettel at the Miami Grand Prix talks about climate change with experts

On Thursday afternoon, the Hard Rock Stadium circuit for Sunday’s Miami Grand Prix was unveiled for Formula One drivers as they got their first view of the 3.36-mile course.

But before the race drivers tour, four-time World Drivers’ Championship winner Sebastian Vettel was a few miles away at Tony Miami Shores. Under a tent in the lush botanical garden of design firm and retailer Plant the Future, Vettel held court with a dozen scientists, engineers, land-use experts, leaders of non-governmental organizations, d entrepreneurs, a cinematographer and others not steeped in motor racing. but climate change.

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Formula 1 driver Sebastian Vettel (center) attended a discussion on climate change at Plant the Future in Miami Shores on Thursday ahead of the Miami Grand Prix on Sunday.

For nearly two hours, Vettel listened and questioned as the panel veered off course and moved from doomsday scenarios to solutions, from fatalistic pessimism to hopeful optimism.

“I find it fascinating how interconnected everything is,” Vettel told the gathering as he explained his passion for tackling the global climate challenge. “We are all fascinated by nature. But where we go, we don’t give nature a chance, and ourselves in nature. That’s where I see the enormous potential of simply trying, by first and foremost, to raise awareness and address this especially for young people.”

German Aston Martin driver Sebastian Vettel steers his car during the first free practice of Sunday's Formula One Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix at the Dino and Enzo Ferrari circuit in Imola, Italy, Friday April 22, 2022 (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

Motor racing driver among sports personalities speaking on a variety of issues

When not behind the wheel of his Aston Martin team racing machine, Vettel touts and champions efforts to tackle climate change. In this regard, he is part of a growing legion of activist figures in the world of sport speaking out on all sorts of political, cultural or economic issues.

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Former Miami Heat (now Los Angeles Lakers) star LeBron James has been at the forefront of advocating for issues of racial justice and equity. Like her American women’s soccer teammates, Abby Wambach, who played at the University of Florida, is outspoken about equal pay for women.

At times that advocacy has been inspiring, at other times being a vocal athlete has drawn backlash and retaliation.

Formula 1 driver Sebastian Vettel attended a discussion on climate change at Plant the Future in Miami Shores on Thursday ahead of the Miami Grand Prix on Sunday.

Vettel, however, didn’t seem to hesitate to make a statement. The 34-year-old German native arrived at Thursday’s noon chat wearing a t-shirt with a racing driver’s helmet fitted with a snorkel and saying, “Miami 2060: 1st Grand Prix Underwater, Act Now Or swim later”.

Vettel, however, said his aim was not to shame people. Nor is it, he said, about imposing guilt on industries or individuals. Or take anything away from anyone, he added.

Vettel noted in the discussion that he is aware that motor racing, with its emissions, opens him up to questions of hypocrisy. He even conceded he was “shocked” the first time he calculated his race car’s estimated carbon emissions from a full season of laps.

The problem, he said, “comes down to education” and learning how to offset the impacts and reduce the carbon output to the atmosphere.

“The hard thing is when you start [scolding] folks, there’s an immediate defense strategy in terms of, “Yeah, but you’re not going to take this away from me,” he said. “That’s why I think it’s incredibly inspiring when new solutions come along.”

Formula 1 driver Sebastian Vettel (center) attended a discussion on climate change at Plant the Future in Miami Shores on Thursday ahead of the Miami Grand Prix on Sunday.

Doomsday scenarios, but also innovative solutions and mitigations

Finding answers and solutions seemed more urgent after hearing some of the doomsday warnings ruminated over a lunch of artichoke empanadas, chickpea masala, coconut curried vegetables and Basmati rice.

Roundtable participants included: Jayantha Obeysekera, Sea Level Rise Expert at Florida International University, Wayne Pathman, Real Estate and Land Use Lawyer, Hardeep Anand of Miami County- Dade, Wilson Center fellow Maximiliano Bello, marine attorney Francis Pastor, business owner and artist Paloma Teppa, Jose Javier Guarderas, founder of Premios Verdes, filmmaker Lawrence Curtis, and entrepreneurs Daniel Kleinman and John Scianna.

Vettel has been told of the dangers of rising seas and inland flooding as water levels rise through South Florida’s porous limestone bedrock. He’s heard of potential super hurricanes, like 2019’s Hurricane Dorian, which brought storm surge over 20 feet to Grand Bahama Island. And on wetter rainy seasons which, combined with warmer atmospheric temperatures, would lead to unbearable surges in the heat index.

It was just the impacts on the South Florida threshold. Vettel has heard of distant dangers, such as melting Arctic ice slowing the flow of the Gulfstream Current and a calving glacier the size of Florida in Antarctica which, on its own, could raise sea levels by two feet. – maybe – in the next decade.

There were also positive discussions.

A number of mitigation strategies have been mooted, including changing building codes to raise homes and offices and investing in above-ground infrastructure to provide better flood protection.

One speaker mentioned a pool of over $1 trillion available worldwide to cover the costs of mitigation efforts. And entrepreneurs have talked about harnessing technologies and the rise of trading in currencies and digital assets to further bolster funding for other mitigation measures.

Vettel left after the discussion to join his Aston Martin racing team. At Miami International Autodrome, the temporary racing circuit around Miami Gardens, home of the Miami Dolphins and Miami Hurricanes, all the trappings of glitzy Formula 1 racing awaited you.

“I love my life. I love my kids. I love what I do,” Vettel said as he left the climate talk, again emphasizing that his goal is to look for ways to mitigate the impact on the environment so that everyone can continue to do so. what they love while limiting the impact on the planet we inhabit.

“Why do we hesitate? he said. “We can move towards a world that can be so much better.”

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