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South Florida Leaders Take Action on Climate Change

GRAPHIC: This illustration is a hypothetical look at Miami's wet future. The possibility has sparked a Miami-Dade County plan to fight climate change. Image courtesy of Florida Center for Environmental Studies.
GRAPHIC: This illustration is a hypothetical look at Miami's wet future. The possibility has sparked a Miami-Dade County plan to fight climate change. Image courtesy of Florida Center for Environmental Studies.
January 23, 2015

MIAMI - With more than 1,300 miles of low-lying coastline, Florida sticks out as one of the world's most vulnerable places to climate change and the sea-level rise that's a consequence of rising temperatures. According to a United Nations report last year, southeast Florida has the most to lose because of high population density.

This week, leaders from Miami-Dade, the state's most populous county, presented a comprehensive plan aimed at preparing for the worst.

"Southeast Florida taking these measures that are concrete action steps to become resilient, I think, is really a turning point," said Miami-Dade Clerk of Court Harvey Ruvin, who chairs the county's Climate Change Taskforce. "I think the rest of the country should really look to southeast Florida as a proving ground, and the solutions that we develop can be applied elsewhere."

The plan's recommendations are based on the U.S. government's National Climate Assessment, projecting an ocean-level rise of two feet by 2060 and more than six feet by the end of the century.

Within decades, even under the best-case scenarios, the rise would strand Miami's nuclear power plant on an island, leave the main airport runways underwater, jeopardize the fresh-water supply and put an estimated $6 trillion in assets at risk. However, Ruvin said it isn't too late to make a difference.

"No, I don't think it's too little, too late," he said. "I think the time probably would have been better if we had started planning earlier. But now is now. We can't push the clock back."

Ruvin, a former county commissioner, has been speaking out on the dangers of sea-level rise for decades. He said he only recently has been taken seriously.

"There are people that still are arguing that climate change is not man-made," he said. "So, let's take that argument off the table. It doesn't really matter much what's causing sea-level rise. We know it's rising."

Ruvin said Miami isn't alone in the risks. Three-quarters of Florida's nearly 20 million residents live in coastal counties, which also could feel the effects of sea-level rise in this century.

The action plan is online at miamidade.gov.

Phil Latzman, Public News Service - FL