Following one of the most divisive elections in our nation’s history, it’s more important than ever to find issues that unite us.
One of these issues, which matters to people of all political stripes, is the growing cost and risks of rising sea levels and more extreme weather. As Republican and Democratic mayors, we know the impacts of a changing climate are already happening. They don’t care who you vote for. Up and down our coasts, communities, such as Coral Gables, Florida, and Hoboken, New Jersey, are grappling with increased flooding from rising tides, more extreme rainfall, and devastating hurricanes.
Rising tides are first an economic issue. One-hundred-twenty-three million Americans live in coastal counties, accounting for nearly half of the country’s gross domestic product. Over the past half century, coastal flooding has increased by 300 percent to more than 900 percent along all three coasts of the contiguous United States. Extreme weather events across the country have caused $350 billion in damages over the last decade.
President-elect Donald Trump is among those who should understand the economic risks. With sea level rise of three to four feet, Trump-owned properties in Mar-a-Lago, Hollywood, Doral and Sunny Isles will be in harm’s way. And there are at the low end of projections by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which expect sea levels to rise in Florida by as much as five to six-plus feet this century.
Rising tides don’t just affect those with a waterfront view. Coastal communities are gateways for trade and transportation. Whether you’re a farmer in Nebraska or manufacturer in Kentucky, the resilience of our ports affect your bottom line. The network of roads, bridges, and transportation systems from our coasts to America’s heartland were not built to withstand rising seas and more extreme weather.
Coastal flooding is also a challenge for national security. Critical military assets that help protect our country are concentrated on the coasts. Nearly 130 Department of Defense installations valued at more than $100 billion are threatened by a 3-foot rise in sea levels.
As much as climate change poses a challenge, it also presents opportunities. Last week, World Resources Institute published a report that offers a policy road map to enhance our resilience to climate impacts. Here are just three of the recommendations. First, the government must be cost-effective with taxpayer dollars and balance investments in pre-disaster resilience and post-disaster recovery. Second, it should expand public-private partnerships to reduce the dependence on government action alone. And third, we need to develop a better-coordinated “whole of government” approach to minimize costs and improve the response to future disasters.
Our cities are already taking these recommendations to heart. In Coral Gables, we are assessing the vulnerability of our critical infrastructure. Miami Beach is investing $400 million to combat flooding with storm water pumps. And the growing impacts of coastal flooding across the state, now occurring during sunny days just from high tides, have sparked significant bipartisan collaboration, like the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Compact.
In Hoboken, we are implementing a comprehensive flood resiliency strategy to protect our communities from flooding and extreme weather events. We have also installed two pumps, are building three resiliency parks with underground storm water detention, and are putting in incentives for private property owners to install green roofs and flood resiliency measures.
We call on the incoming Trump administration and new Congress to prioritize opportunities to strengthen local communities. We hope that the Trump administration will realize that investment in climate resilience is a win-win strategy that will strengthen our economies, create jobs, and protect our communities. That’s the kind of action we can all get behind.
Dawn Zimmer (D) is the mayor of Hoboken, NJ. James Cason (R) is the mayor of Coral Gables.