Climate Report: Global Warming Puts Miami at Grave Risk

Image: Climate Report: Global Warming Puts Miami at Grave Risk

Thursday, 08 May 2014 02:04 PM

By Melanie Batley

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A newly released National Climate Assessment report shows that Miami is one of the cities most at risk from global warming, The New York Times reports.

Climate change has already caused unprecedented sea level rises, and an increase in "frequency, intensity and duration" of extreme heat is predicted to "affect public health, natural and built environments, energy, agriculture, and forestry" while "decreased water availability will have economic and environmental impacts," according to the report, which is based on input from more than 300 experts and a 60-member Federal Advisory Committee.

A two-foot water surge around Southeast Florida could occur by 2060, according to a report by the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Compact, the Times reports, while rising sea levels could flood Miami roads.

Miami-Dade County governments have estimated the area could see "billions or even trillions of dollars" in damage from rising sea levels saturating the city’s foundation and infrastructure and entering sewage and drainage systems while compromising fresh water supplies, according to the Times.

While there has been a plethora of political debate about whether global warming exists, and if so, the potential culprits, the National Climate Assessment Report states that multiple, independent evidence confirms that "human activities" such as the burning of coal, oil, and gas, as well as the clearing of forests are the primary cause of global warming that has taken place over the past 50 years.

Increasing fossil fuel emissions have warmed the planet by more than 40 percent since the Industrial Revolution in the 1800s. "Natural factors" – sun and volcanoes, for example – cannot have been the impetus for what has occurred over the past 50 years, according to the report.

While rapidly melting Arctic ice is an issue for all of America’s coastline, Miami is particularly vulnerable because of its geology, the Times reports.

"Sea level rise is our reality in Miami Beach," Philip Levine, the city’s mayor, told the Times. "We are past the point of debating the existence of climate change and are now focusing on adapting to current and future threats."

At an April hearing led by Sen. Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat, Levine told the Miami Herald that "on a beautiful sunny day, we can see our streets flooded."

At that meeting, a Florida Atlantic University civil engineering professor characterized the problem as a "slow, steady creep," but said there’s time to fix it.

Four Florida counties, including Miami-Dade and neighboring Broward, struck agreements in 2009 to create a joint action plan, according to the Herald.

Despite the new report, many Republicans – including possible 2016 presidential contenders Sen. Marco Rubio and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush – are reluctant to take on the issue, according to the Times.

The GOP is currently in a heated debate with the Obama administration over the approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline.

"The [global warming] issue reflects an increasingly difficult political reality for Republicans grappling with the issue of climate change, particularly for the party’s lawmakers from Florida," the Times reports. "In acknowledging the problem, politicians must endorse a solution, but the only major policy solutions to climate change — taxing or regulating the oil, gas, and coal industries — are anathema to the base of the Republican Party. Thus, many Republicans, especially in Florida, appear to be dealing with the issue by keeping silent."

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