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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Rising sea levels: Now playing in Miami Beach



New studies showing how rising sea levels will wash across Florida have gained a lot of attention lately.

"The potential magnitude of sea level rise is staggering," said Michael Oppenheimer, a Princeton University climate researcher who is on the board of Climate Central and says he offered comment on a version of a recent study. "In the short term, it risks serious disruption of life along the coast while in the long term, it could lead to obliteration of a large and priceless amount of our cultural heritage, worldwide."

But Florida isn't doing much to prepare for it. According to the Associated Press, the "state has yet to offer a clear plan or coordination to address what local officials across Florida's coast see as a slow-moving emergency."

Left on their own, some coastal cities, like St. Petersburg, are looking into what to do. 

But Miami Beach is actually doing something about it now.

According to the Miami Herald's Joey Flechas and Jenny Staletovich, the South Florida coastal resort city is well underway with  a massive program to brace for the encroaching sea.

City officials will spend between $400 million to $500 million over the next five years to install 80 pumps and raise roads and seawalls across the city, Flechas and Staletovich write.

"We don't have a playbook for this," said Betsy Wheaton, assistant building director for environment and sustainability in Miami Beach.

But in many ways, Miami Beach is writing just that - the first engineering manual for adapting South Florida's urban landscape to rising seas. The entire southern tip of the peninsula tops climate change risk lists but Beach leaders have acted with the most urgency, waiving competitive bidding and approving contracts on an emergency basis to fast-track the work. Tidal flooding lapping at posh shops and the yards of pricey homes makes a persuasive argument that climate change isn't only real, but a clear and present threat.

How long until Tampa Bay starts paying for a similar playbook?


[Last modified: Monday, October 26, 2015 1:56pm]


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