Is South Florida failing to acknowledge its disastrous, watery future?

The most dire predictions warn that coastal cities may not make it to the end of this century

Topics: miami, south florida, Sea levels, Climate Change, , ,

How do you convince a booming economy that the very existence of the city in which it thrives may not be long for this world? It’s not easy, according to The New York Times, which reports on local and state efforts to address the rapidly rising sea levels that threaten engulf South Florida as soon as 2100.

Broward, Miami-Dade, Monroe and Palm Beach countries, the Times reports, have teamed up to work on solutions, while Fort Lauderdale last week held a two-day conference on climate change. But state legislators are doing little in response to even conservative estimates of sea level rise — and the business, real estate and tourist industries appear willfully ignorant of what sea level rise would mean for the economy.

“I don’t think people realize how vulnerable Florida is,” Harold R. Wanless, the chairman of the geological sciences department at the University of Miami, told the Times. “We’re going to get four or five or six feet of water, or more, by the end of the century. You have to wake up to the reality of what’s coming.”

It could be that forecasting up to 6 feet of water by the end of the century — in an area where a calculated $156 billion in property lies less than 3 feet above the high tide line — is too dire of a prediction to get much response:

[Charles Tear, the Miami Beach emergency management coordinator] said he and other city officials were focused on the more conservative prediction that the seas will rise by five to 15 inches over the next 50 years.

“We can’t look at 100 years,” he said. “We have to look at the realistic side.”

James F. Murley, the executive director of the South Florida Regional Planning Council, was similarly unmoved by the more calamitous predictions.

“We’re not comfortable looking at 2100,” he said, noting that for planning purposes he adhered to a projection that foresaw two feet of sea-level rise by 2060.

A more appropriate “realistic” response, at least according to Wanless, would be to forget geo-engineering projects and start clearing out low-lying areas. Few seem ready to face such drastic measures now; but soon, they may be forced to.

Lindsay Abrams

Lindsay Abrams is a staff writer at Salon, reporting on all things sustainable. Follow her on Twitter @readingirl, email

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Burger King Japan

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Burger King's black cheeseburger: Made with squid ink and bamboo charcoal, arguably a symbol of meat's destructive effect on the planet. Only available in Japan.

    Elite Daily/Twitter

    2014's fast food atrocities

    McDonald's Black Burger: Because the laws of competition say that once Burger King introduces a black cheeseburger, it's only a matter of time before McDonald's follows suit. You still don't have to eat it.


    2014's fast food atrocities

    Domino's Specialty Chicken: It's like regular pizza, except instead of a crust, there's fried chicken. The company's marketing officer calls it "one of the most creative, innovative menu items we have ever had” -- brain power put to good use.


    2014's fast food atrocities

    Arby's Meat Mountain: The viral off-menu product containing eight different types of meat that, on second read, was probably engineered by Arby's all along. Horrific, regardless.


    2014's fast food atrocities

    KFC'S ZINGER DOUBLE DOWN KING: A sandwich made by adding a burger patty to the infamous chicken-instead-of-buns creation can only be described using all caps. NO BUN ALL MEAT. Only available in South Korea.

    Taco Bell

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Taco Bell's Waffle Taco: It took two years for Taco Bell to develop this waffle folded in the shape of a taco, the stand-out star of its new breakfast menu.

    Michele Parente/Twitter

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Krispy Kreme Triple Cheeseburger: Only attendees at the San Diego County Fair were given the opportunity to taste the official version of this donut-hamburger-heart attack combo. The rest of America has reasonable odds of not dropping dead tomorrow.

    Taco Bell

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Taco Bell's Quesarito: A burrito wrapped in a quesadilla inside an enigma. Quarantined to one store in Oklahoma City.

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Boston Pizza's Pizza Cake: The people's choice winner of a Canadian pizza chain's contest whose real aim, we'd imagine, is to prove that there's no such thing as "too far." Currently in development.


    2014's fast food atrocities

    7-Eleven's Doritos Loaded: "For something decadent and artificial by design," wrote one impassioned reviewer, "it only tasted of the latter."

  • Recent Slide Shows


Loading Comments...