from the a-rising-tide-lifts-all-boats-but-not-so-good-for-property dept.
Michael Mishak writes that there are few places in the nation more vulnerable to rising sea levels than low-lying South Florida, a tourist and retirement mecca built on drained swampland. Yet as other coastal states and the Obama administration take aggressive measures to battle the effects of global warming, Florida's top Republican politicians are challenging the science and balking at government fixes. In Miami Beach the concern is palpable. On a recent afternoon, local businessman Scott McKenzie pulled out his iPad and flipped through photos from a 2009 storm. In one, two women kayak through knee-high water in the center of town. "This is not a future problem. It's a current problem," says Leonard Berry, a contributing author of the National Climate Assessment, which found that sea levels have risen about 8 inches in the past century. By one regional assessment, the waters off South Florida could rise another 2 feet by 2060, a scenario that would overwhelm the region's aging drainage system and taint its sources of drinking water. "It's getting to the point where some properties being bought today will probably not be able to be sold at the end of a 30-year mortgage," says Harold Wanless. "You would think responsible leaders and responsible governments would take that as a wake-up call."
Gov. Rick Scott, who is running for re-election, has worked with the Republican-controlled Legislature to dismantle Florida's fledgling climate change initiatives that were put into place by his predecessor and current opponent, Democrat Charlie Crist. "I'm not a scientist," says Scott when asked about anthropogenic global warming during a stop in Miami. Meanwhile, Miami Beach is bracing for another season of punishing tides. "We're suffering while everyone is arguing man-made or natural," says Christine Florez, president of the West Avenue Corridor Neighborhood Association. "We should be working together to find solutions so people don't feel like they've been left on a log drifting out to sea."
Recently much was made here on SN of the startling discovery that low lands would flood first.
Most published projections indicate that the projected sea level raise (mostly attributed to melting polar caps) will amount to 4 feet, and take 200 years to achieve that degree of rise. (The always *cough* believable Huffington Post immediately called it a 10 foot rise.)
Pacific Standard suggests that this situation could be best handled over that time period by using the same techniques that the US (and other countries) used to handle the slow de-population of flood prone areas.
They report on a paywalled article suggesting that already existing Flood legislation should be used to "take advantage" of each incremental "minor disaster" to impose standard Flood Insurance requirements that properties in flood zones are already subject to, (making them essentially un-insurable for new construction, or federal disaster assistance). Combining already existing Buyout (PDF) programs for flood damaged structures, allows for the orderly clearing of high risk areas.
Quoting Pacific Standard:
Retreat is seldom popular, but some fights cannot be won. One of the most difficult adaptive measures that we face is figuring out how to retreat in an orderly fashion from select shorelines as they are inundated by rising tides and ferocious storms. That means sacrificing previously valuable waterfront property and infrastructure - an unappealing measure for virtually any landowner or community.
Each storm, or flooding disaster could serve to slowly move dwellings and other structures out of the affected zones at a rate that is commensurate with the rising water levels, rather than continuing to build ever more extensive sea walls and dike systems, or a wholesale government mandated evacuation.
Whether the oceans will actually rise 4 feet, or frequent ocean storm damage will become economically unsustainable, the net effect can be manageable by proven existing programs due the the long time (more than 200 years) that this process will take.