Is Miami Beach Doomed? Are all Sea Level Cities Doomed?
For every person who says climate change does not exist, there is another person that says most low laying coastal areas are doomed. More and more people believe that all cities at or near sea level are doomed to destruction by rising sea levels in the coming decades. Miami and Miami Beach have been labeled as ground zero in this debate.
The amount of sea level rise in the coming decades is certainly up for debate. Some experts estimate a six feet rise over the coming century. Some say more. Others say the whole thing is a big hoax.
For now in this blog, I will assume that sea levels are rising and there could be rise of six feet in the coming thirty years. Even more in the later parts of the century. In the months ahead, I will examine various models for sea level rise, but for the now, I want to talk about solutions.
Miami Beach is implementing an extraordinary set of actions to reduce the impact of rising sea levels, storm water surge and extreme weather. I will examine the city’s actions and plans, as well as the issues and criticisms.
The issues related to designing and implementing solutions for rising waters are complex. First there the issues of the geography of the location. There are the engineering design and cost issues of physical systems to reduce and remove water from a location. In addition these are complex issues of jurisdiction, private property rights, insurance, and adverse impacts of any proposed physical solutions. These issues coupled with the vast uncertainty of success, and the many voices claiming that such solutions are a waste of tax payer money, make success seem improbable. However, failure is certain is we do not act. Vision, leadership, intelligence, risk taking and determination are essential to success.
The expected costs of protecting Miami Beach are high. With half a trillion dollars with of real estate at risk, the dollar costs of failure are much higher. And its not just Miami Beach and South Florida, implementation and success in Miami will greatly determine the solutions available to the world.
With half of the world population living in areas at risk to sea level rise, it is an economic and moral imperative that we engage these best talent and ideas, and drive the political will to succeed.