Learning to live with water
Trend is using the sea-level rise projections released in 2015 by the South Florida Climate Change Compact, a joint effort of south Florida counties. Its “unified” projection, applicable around all of Florida, actually encompasses three projections — low, moderate and high — to guide development. The projection’s baseline is 1992. Trend, instead, has used the projections’ 2017 estimates — seas up 3 to 6 inches from 1992 already — as a baseline.
The sea-level rise reflected in the projections is “locked in” — guaranteed, researchers say, by inputs such as emissions already in the global environment. It’s irreversible no matter what happens with emissions going forward.
Big changes appear in store for Florida. At first look, it appears that the state that went in a century from a water-logged afterthought to the nation’s third-most-populous could see the process reverse this century as land disappears. Rising insurance premiums, business interruptions from flooding and repeated flooding of homes and streets will, over time, force many Floridians to either relocate within the state or leave.
Costs will rise as government tries to keep drainage systems ahead of rising seas and freshwater ahead of saltwater intrusion — costs that will be too high for some areas to be saved. “Some hard decisions are going to have to be made,” says economist David Letson of the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science.
Florida has proven itself to be adaptable: It strengthened building codes after Andrew in 1992 and has rebuilt its insurance markets after Andrew and subsequent storms.
“Look, we came here 100 years ago. It was a miserable place,” says Miami-Dade Chief Resilience Officer Jim Murley. “The only way we learned how to live here was by managing water, and filling, and taking advantage of high land.” He believes the future entails accepting the science, collaborating, deciding what areas to protect, what to let go and learning to live with the water. Says Murley, “It’s a viable way to go forward.”