Sunday, February 4, 2018

What is your exit strategy due to climate driven sea level rise in Miami?

NOAA map-just 12" rise in sea level
What’s your exit strategy from Miami?  An interesting, and a startling, question.  But this was not asked by some immigration hardliner, economic disaster prognosticator or because of the continued over development of the area. Interestingly enough, a local public official asked this very question during a panel discussion, which was actually intended to be about what local municipalities were doing on Climate Resiliency.  Despite these fairly strong opinions of inevitable doom, this official was still taking what actions he could to ameliorate the affects of climate driven sea level rise in his city.  Problem is, based on his own projections, these efforts appear to be like putting fingers in the dike at this stage.

So, what is your exit strategy due to climate driven sea level rise in Miami?  That question at a recent University of Miami panel discussion certainly got my attention.  Another statement made by that same speaker that he was planning on his house being worth $0 in the not-so-distant future got everyone’s attention.  There was that particular silence when people aren’t sure how to process something.  Now we’re all familiar with people making exaggerated statements these days.  Using hyperbole for the shock value…or for their own agenda.  Surprisingly, the most positive outlook from this panel actually came from the climate scientist…the one you would typically expect to shout out that the sky is falling.  My personal belief is that scientists have taken so much heat (no pun intended) for making dire predictions that they now go out of their way to temper these.

As the evening went on though, I realized that the actual data this scientist presented was indeed dire.  Predictions from 2016 indicate, conservatively, that sea level will rise by approximately 15” by 2045.  For those keeping score, that’s only 27 years from now…still too far for most people to grasp any direct consequences for themselves.  However, the scientist pointed out that based on additional research and observations, every subsequent projection has resulted in this projection to move up in time.  Add to that the current US Federal response (or extreme lack of) and we could be talking about a 12-15 inch rise in the next 15-20 years.  Doesn’t sound like a lot until you consider that 12” would put 20% of Miami-Dade County under water!  That’s one out of every five square miles of the County under water!  This doesn't even include the areas that would now be considered low lying and prone to flooding (yes, actual 'flooding'...the kind that does drain off, but still bothersome when it starts happening 90-100 times a year!)

Now, when I say under water, its important to understand, we’re talking permanently under water (ok…just until the next ice age, but I’m not counting on that any time soon).  One of the ‘mistakes’ people are making, including the speakers at the panel, is confusing the discussion by talking about flooding.  Flooding is the temporary influx and subsequent drain off of water.  Flooding is temporary!  In three days or weeks or months it drains off.  Sea level rise is permanent (see previous disclaimer on the next ice age)!  So, what do you think will happen when thousands (ten of thousands?) of homes in Miami-Dade County become flooded or surrounded by flood waters and/or cannot be accessed by road anymore?  And this will be not only in southeastern and southwestern parts of the County, but also on western parts of Miami Beach and Miami-Dade, as well as parts of Broward County.  Do you think anyone will notice?  Like maybe the banks?  Homebuyers?  Do you honestly believe that someone will put their money into a home or lend money on a home just a few miles from these inundated areas?

However, the critical point won’t necessarily be 15-20 years away either.  Long before that, the combination of sea level rise, high tides and storm surge could give us a shock that Hurricane Irma (and Superstorm Sandy for that matter) only hinted it.  Miami-Dade home prices, according to this same individual, are already showing signs that buyers are pricing in the affects of Climate Driven Events into the market. Think this is crazy talk…that there’s no proof of sea level rise impacts yet?  Well you only have to look at the current situation on Miami Beach as an example.  Or at the frantic pumping that took place by South Florida Water Management to bring down the canal levels after the abnormally high rains last fall.  Areas of Miami Beach are flooding regularly just at high tides now.  Certain roads are all but impassable during moderate rainstorms.  And that’s with only a rise of a few inches.  There are homes around the Inter-Coastal Waterway that are literally just inches above normal high tides now!  All you need to do is look at the interactive NOAA sea level rise charts to see how much of the County is impacted at different heights to visually experience the impending threat.

NOAA map-24" rise in sea level
So, what exactly can be done for Miami now?  Unfortunately, the truth seems to be…not much.  The cost of protecting the entire County would be in the $1,000,000,000,000’s of dollars…that’s trillions.  Even the effectiveness of these efforts would be questionable and possibly short lived, depending on the eventual sea level height.  What can be done then?  Well, in the words of this speaker, start thinking about your exit strategy.  At some point homes in many, possibly all areas, will be worthless…that’s $0.00.  Oh, and you’ll likely still owe the balance on your mortgage by the way.  The time this will happen is well within the life of a normal home mortgage of 30 years.  Everyone needs to be thinking about and making plans for this eventuality.  As I detailed in my writing from 2016 (below), any significant Climate Driven Event will have a ripple affect throughout Miami-Dade as well as South Florida in general.  You don’t have to be directly hit with rising sea levels to be affected.  Even local officials are quietly looking into arrangements with nearby states to make some attempt at an orderly influx of refugees to their cities as those that do makes plans seek higher ground.  Whether that’s upstate in Florida, into the Carolinas or further into the heart of the US.

Sounds pretty bleak…and the outcome on this trajectory are certainly fatal to Miami-Dade.  However, there is one possible alternative.  Civic leaders and climate scientists DO need to start spreading this dire warning!  The citizens of Miami-Dade and South Florida are at ground zero for the US impact of Climate Driven Events.  They have the most to lose…but that means they also have the most to gain if we can turn the tables, or at least dramatically slow Climate Change.  We must become one voice, a single, unstoppable force in the fight against climate deniers.  We need to drive the current movement towards changes in the global economy and energy use to slow…and then reverse the affect of global warming.  Failure to halt sea level rise will be the end for Miami….thus, failure cannot be an option….

[Writings from 2016 on Climate Driven Events]

If you scare easily, please don't read this!

       NOAA map-6' rise in sea level      
Four things I learned, or maybe more accurately, become more conscious of after attending this panel discussion:
1) That the Coral Gables campus would be seriously threatened along with all other areas in the Miami-Dade area. Being newly back at the campus, this tie-in to the rise in sea level hadn't yet become part of my thinking.
2) The Miami-Dade economy is one entity. You can't remove pieces and still keep the balance of the whole intact. The local economy relies almost exclusively on local labor and local patronage. If any part of this labor or patronage were to become threatened it would roll through the rest of the economy like a tsunami. And like a tsunami, once it starts, it continues until some natural balance is reached.
3) It will not take a 10' rise in sea level to have a devastating impact on the area. A 1' rise will flood the most southerly farming areas. 2' will inundate vast areas southeast of US1 from Cutler Bay to Homestead, Miami Beach and along the far western portion of the County. A 5' rise will create the "Miami Peninsula"! Long before the 5' level though: banks will stop lending to buy homes...people with cash will not want to spend that cash here any longer...people who don't own homes will begin to move elsewhere...businesses in affected areas will businesses will stop forming or moving here...the newly unemployed will stop pumping money into the other local businesses...non-local businesses may well begin to move operations and people to other areas of the country. And let's not talk about the affect on local government tax revenues or their expenses of trying to salvage what areas they can. And the spiral will have begun....
4) Once the affects become apparent though, it will already be too late to stop in our lifetime. And a piecemeal approach to solving this pending crisis will do little to stem the tide without a coordinated overall plan that addresses all the impacts this will have.
Does this scenario frighten you? Well, it should. However, while this may sound like a doom-and-gloom story, it's not. What it is meant to be is a sobering look at the reality of the impact sea level rise will have on this area and the fact that the only real solution we have is to stop the rise while there is still time!!
Otherwise there may not be enough sand left in Miami-Dade to bury your head in.......

Saturday, July 18, 2015

The Environment…Week In Review for July 18, 2015

ICYMI….Here are some of the best-of-the-best articles and posts for this week in The Environment


What would you like to hear about each week?  Pass me the word and I’ll do my best to bring you exactly what you want to see for The Environment!!

Science…Week In Review for July 18, 2015

ICYMI….Here are some of the best-of-the-best articles and posts for this week in Science

What would you like to hear about each week?  Pass me the word and I’ll do my best to bring you exactly what you want to see for Science!!

Saturday, July 11, 2015

The Environment…Week In Review for July 11, 2015

ICYMI….Here are some of the best-of-the-best articles and posts for this week in The Environment


 What would you like to hear about each week?  Pass me the word and I’ll do my best to bring you exactly what you want to see for The Environment!!

Science…Week In Review for July 11, 2015

ICYMI….Here are some of the best-of-the-best articles and posts for this week in Science

What would you like to hear about each week?  Pass me the word and I’ll do my best to bring you exactly what you want to see for Science!!

Friday, July 3, 2015

5 Florida State Parks You Don't Want to Miss in South Florida

Florida is best known for it's white sand beaches and it's spectacular weather....for good reason!  Many people will be heading out to Miami Beach and Ft. Lauderdale.  What you may not know is that there are a number of Florida State Parks where you can enjoy not only the beaches, but a little taste of Florida history and some beautiful natural scenery as well!  You can also enjoy snorkeling, camping and canoeing at most of these parks.   

Here are 5 Florida State Parks you don't want to miss:

Photo from Florida State Parks
1) Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park - Located on the southern tip of Key Biscayne, this park offers many popular activities, including swimming (at one of the Top 10 Best beaches in America!), camping, kayaking, biking, fishing and more.  It's also home to the historic lighthouse.  Built originally in 1825, it's the oldest surviving structure in Miami-Dade County.

Photo from Florida State Parks
2) Oleta River State Park - Located just east of N. Miami Beach, it's a hidden treasure within the otherwise urban setting of North Miami.  Along with swimming, fishing, kayaking/canoeing and camping or cabins, it sports one of the best off-road cycling trails you will find anywhere.  Not to mention a chance to hike among the beautiful mangrove preserves.

Photo from Florida State Parks
3) Bahia Honda State Park - Located on Bahia Honda Key, just west of Marathon Key, it offers a vast range of outdoor activities.  Swimming, fishing and kayaking, as well as scuba diving and snorkeling.  This park is also known as an excellent location for watching both wading and shore birds.  And did I mention....spectacular sunsets!

Photo from Florida State Parks
4) John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park - This park has the distinction of being the first undersea US park.  While it does boast mangrove swamps and tropical hammocks, the major draw to the park are the coral reefs! Scuba diving, snorkeling, kayaking/canoeing and glass-bottom boat tours all offer visitors a unique view of some of the most spectacular natural scenery in the world.

Photo from Florida State Parks
5) Long Key State Park - Located in the Middle Keys, this was the original location of the Flagler East Coast Railway fishing station...which was lost in the 1935 hurricane.  The park still promises sensational flats fishing, along with snorkeling, kayaking and swimming,  In addition, it's Golden Orb Trail, providing a view of 5 different natural communties, is well known for the bird watching oppotunities it provides.

All of these parks provide natural scenery unlike anything else.  Additional information is available for both the Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail and Florida State Parks.  So get outside....enjoy the natural beauty and activites of all these parks and the spectacular weather of Sout Florida!

Photo from Florida State Parks

What's your favorite beach or Florida State Park?

Care to share your special get-away secrets?!