Florida combatting climate change and sea level rise

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MIAMI (Gray DC) -- Sea level rise and coastal flooding can mean life or death when a major storm hits. With hurricane season underway, coastal flooding is top of mind for many communities.

Alana Austin interviews City of Miami Chief Resilience Officer, Jane Gilbert, on the large-scale efforts underway in South Florida to tackle climate change and sea level rise. Through millions of dollars in investments and coalitions across local governments and businesses, leaders hope to tackle these long-term public safety challenges. (Source: GrayDC)

As sea levels inch up each year, many leaders are also grappling with how to better protect their neighborhoods. Alana Austin is on the ground in South Florida with what they’re doing to literally keep their heads above water.

Leaders in the greater Miami area are working on various resiliency projects to better protect their communities, some of those ideas may eventually influence not just communities in the region, but around the country.”

“This is a effort that one city cannot do alone," said City of Miami Chief Resilience Officer, Jane Gilbert.

The Miami area is on the front lines of the fight to combat sea level rise and storm surge. The region is uniquely vulnerable to this threat, and its plans to adapt could become a blueprint for other communities.

“Climate change is a slow-moving change – the heat increasing over time, sea level rise…but hurricane risk is here and now. That's what keeps me up at night," said Gilbert.

The City of Miami – along with other local governments and businesses around the region – are putting forward millions of dollars to improve infrastructure. The City of Miami Beach and Miami-Dade County are also integral in these efforts.

Flood-prone and densely-populated neighborhoods, like Little Havana and Brickell, should soon see new natural and engineered buffers between the water and thousands of residents and tourists. Stormwater maintenance and drainage are also included in the strategy.

“And we now have a unified strategy…we share resources, we share information – but we also share our advocacy," said Gilbert.

Leaders like Gilbert emphasize cutting carbon pollution and integrating structures with the reality of being surrounded by water are also major priorities.

Gilbert and other experts in the area also point to the need to tackle these issues as average temperatures continue rising and powerful storm systems have the potential to dump higher and higher precipitation levels over communities.

Climate change skeptic David Legates says sea level rise is driven by polar ice caps melting, but unlike the vast majority of fellow scientists, he thinks that process is natural and not man-made.

“Hurricanes have been with us forever. Sea level rise has been with us for 20,000 years," said Legates, Professor of Climatology at the University of Delaware.

Legates recommends the millions of coastal residents consider moving further inland.

“People like to live along the coast…and you pay a price for that," said Legates.

But much of Florida’s economy depends on maintaining its coastlines and pristine beaches. By the year 2100, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration projects global sea levels could rise by more than six feet.

Read the original version of this article at www.graydc.com.

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