Over 15 million tourists[i] flock to Miami Beach annually to enjoy the City’s white sand beaches, art deco buildings, and vibrant nightlife. Miami is a unique cultural mecca, and its stunning beachfront locations have also made the city a hot spot for real estate developers. There are currently over 400 condo towers (approximately 50,000 units) under construction from Miami to West Palm Beach.[ii] However, the prospect of rising sea levels and global warming loom ominously over the City’s future prospects.
Rising greenhouse gas concentrations are contributing to glacial melting as well as the warming and expansion of the oceans.[iii] Accordingly, sea levels are expected to rise by up to 2 meters by 2100.[iv] The problem is even graver in South Florida, where sea levels are projected to rise by up to 10 inches by 2030 (compared to 1992 levels).[v] The region is particularly susceptible to flooding due to its “high water table, porous limestone bedrock, and low elevation.”[vi] Miami, with its booming real estate market, stands to loose up to $3.5 trillion in assets by 2070 as a result of climate change.[vii] Given these risks, the City has adopted a proactive mitigation and adaption strategy to hedge against future climate change impacts.
Exhibit 1: Sea Level Rise Risk for Miami Condominiums.[viii] Areas shaded in blue represent condominiums that are projected to be affected by approximately two meters of sea level rise. Areas in yellow and red represent condominiums that will be affected by three and four meters of sea level rise, respectively.
According to the City of Miami, every dollar that is invested in mitigation efforts is estimated to save $4 in potential losses in value.[ix] The City has therefore attempted to create a framework to plan mitigation efforts by establishing the following task forces:
- Comprehensive Storm Water Management Master Plan (2012) – The City of Miami Beach developed a comprehensive 20-year guideline to address concerns regarding storm water and coastal infrastructure, as well as regulatory policies. The City announced in 2015 that it would commit up to $500 million for flood mitigation efforts.[x]
- Mayors Blue Ribbon Panel on Sea Level Rise (2014) – Miami Beach’s mayor, Philip Levine, appointed a committee to advise him on issues related to flooding, storm water surge and sea level rise.[xi]
The most salient of the recent initiatives that the Miami Beach task forces have proposed and begun to implement include the following:
- Building Code Modifications: Miami has begun to implement building code modifications that specify a minimum ground floor level for all new construction. Minimum Finish Floor Elevations will vary according to the building type, zoning codes and location.[xii]
- Address Storm Water Surges: Miami has begun to install a storm water pump system that will pump excess seawater back into the ocean via the Biscayne Bay. The City plans to install as many as 75 to 80 pumps by 2020.[xiii]
Exhibit 2: Storm Water Surge Pump Installation[xiv]
- State-of-the-Art City Planning Imitative: Miami, under the leadership of Phillip Levine, intends to embark on a radical engineering feat. The City is in the process of raising streets and sidewalks by as much as two feet to help combat rising sea levels.
Levine has committed to an unprecedented investment in flooding mitigation measures. Critics accuse Levine of catering to the “big-money interest” of well-heeled developers and investing in “untested solutions.”[xv] While there may be more than a shade of truth to these detractors, Levine is tapping into a lucrative source of both financing and advocacy through his relationship with real estate developers.
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[i]Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau . 2016. Greater Miami and the Beaches 2015 Visitor Industry Overview. [ONLINE] Available at: http://partners.miamiandbeaches.com/~/media/files/gmcvb/partners/research%20statistics/annual-report_2015. [Accessed 4 November 2016].
[ii] Sara Solovitch. 2016. How Miami Beach is Keeping the Florida Dream Alive and Dry. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2016/03/what-works-miami-beach-sea-level-rise-213731. [Accessed 4 November 2016].
[v] Erika Bolstad. 2016. Seas Rising but Florida Keeps Building on the Coast. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/seas-rising-but-florida-keeps-building-on-the-coast/. [Accessed 4 November 2016].
[vi] Union of Concerned Scientists. 2016. Encroaching Tides in Miami-Dade County, Florida. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.ucsusa.org/sites/default/files/attach/2016/04/miami-dade-sea-level-rise-tidal-flooding-fact-sheet.pdf. [Accessed 4 November 2016].
[vii] Katherine Kallergis. 2016. Miami faces $3.5T loss, highest risk of sea level rise among all coastal cities: report. [ONLINE] Available at: http://therealdeal.com/miami/2016/08/16/miami-faces-3-5t-loss-highest-risk-of-sea-level-rise-among-all-coastal-cities-report/. [Accessed 4 November 2016].
[x] AdaptionClearinghouse. 2012. Miami Beach, Florida Stormwater Management Master Plan. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.adaptationclearinghouse.org/resources/miami-beach-florida-stormwater-management-master-plan.html. [Accessed 4 November 2016].
[xi] Official Website of Miami Beach. 2012. Mayor’s Blue Ribbon Panel on Flood Mitigation. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.miamibeachfl.gov/cityclerk/default.aspx?id=78270. [Accessed 4 November 2016].
[xii] AECOM. 2015. A Research Paper Reviewing Issues and Unintended Consequences related to Raising Minimum Building Finish Floor Elevations. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.miamibeachfl.gov/. [Accessed 4 November 2016].
[xiii] Kenny Malone. 2015. An Idea To Mitigate Rising Seas In Miami Beach: Lift The Entire City. [ONLINE] Available at: http://wlrn.org/post/idea-mitigate-rising-seas-miami-beach-lift-entire-city. [Accessed 4 November 2016].
[xiv] Greg Allen. 2016. As Waters Rise, Miami Beach Builds Higher Streets And Political Willpower. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.npr.org/2016/05/10/476071206/as-waters-rise-miami-beach-builds-higher-streets-and-political-willpower. [Accessed 4 November 2016].
[xv] Jessica Weiss. 2015. Miami Beach’s $400 Million Sea-Level Rise Plan Is Unprecedented, but Not Everyone Is Sold. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.miaminewtimes.com/news/miami-beachs-400-million-sea-level-rise-plan-is-unprecedented-but-not-everyone-is-sold-8398989. [Accessed 4 November 2016].