Resiliency — A Needed Commitment
Updated: Jul 6, 2019
The return on investment of upgraded infrastructure is becoming more apparent, and Miamians have taxed themselves hundreds of millions of dollars for resiliency efforts with the expectation of a better quality of life and increased financial security.
NASA’s long-term climate predictions for both land and sea surface measurements date back to the 1880s, and each year they partner with NOAA to update the global temperature. NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Science Studies did a complete assessment of their temperature data to see if past predictions of rising temperatures were accurate to know of any uncertainty within their data with the goal of understanding if the models were able to be relied on in the future. The results found that that they are scarily accurate to within 1/20th a degree Celsius. The organizations concluded that 2016 was the warmest year on record, and 2018 was the fourth.
The ice sheets across Greenland have seen unusual but not unprecedented melting already this 2019 season, which has been an increasing contributor to global sea level rise over the past two decades.
The South East Florida Regional Climate Change Compact from 2015 is the industry standard used to create infrastructure across much of Miami. The data suggests that by 2030 a 6-inch increase in sea level rise, on the low end, and 12 inches on the high end. By 2060, 13 inches on the low end, and 34 inches on the high end. NOAA provided the high-end predictions.
The Miami Urban Core
We can see climate change effects regularly, with multiple flooding incidents in the past month from this year’s intense summer storms. Morning Thunderstorms on Monday, June 10th, on NE 23rd Street in Edgewater left cars underwater and water up to people’s front doors essentially trapping them inside.
On the evening of May 5th, thousands enjoyed Cinco de Mayo parties when a massive storm threatened to dampen festivities. Many areas throughout the urban core felt the effects of the extreme rain event as people pulled up their pant legs and waded through feet of water to get home as many streets were impassable by car. The issues stem deeper than wet socks, tow trucks, and broken tree limbs. During Hurricane Irma, we saw our sea walls inundated as the Category 3 made landfall hundreds of miles away on the west coast of Florida.
Miamians have had many options to voice their concerns, comments, and questions as over the last few years, the amount of resiliency and climate change meetings, groups, and events have changed from one or two a month to now nearly every day. Numerous solutions are already being put in place including backflow preventers on the stormwater outfalls and cleaning debris from stormwater systems to restore maximum capacity. Several reports created by renowned experts include both simple and creative suggestions.
The return on investment of upgraded infrastructure is becoming more apparent, and as a result, Miamians have taxed themselves hundreds of millions of dollars for resiliency efforts with the expectation of a better quality of life and increased financial security. Miami’s future successes in the capital markets will be graded by savvy investors who will judge action vs. inaction and look for confidence in the market, and a city. The affordability of insurance is a major risk and leading many property owners to take initiatives on their own. A potential wide-scale solution is for Florida to stay at the forefront of design and construction by updating our building codes.
Resilience investments are already well underway, and much, much more will be necessary for the coming decades to keep up with the growth of both our city and the frequency and intensity of storms. We will have options to choose from, some more simple, some more robust, each with its own unique set of challenges and price tags. Experts will provide us with data on the probability of sea level rise, storm frequency, and potential ROI cost savings of insurance through infrastructure investment.
In 2015 the sea level rise projects from the South East Florida Regional Climate Change Compact for 2030 seemed far in the future, now, we are barely more than a decade away. Massive projects require long term commitments and are often the most important projects in which we will participate. We have the ability and responsibility to shape Miami into an environment where we want to live, and where we want our children’s children to live, the question is: how much action will we choose?