Earlier this month, Miami voted to invest $200 million in one of the biggest challenges any of us will ever face: climate change. By allowing the city to raise funds for sea walls and sewer improvements and other efforts that are part of outgoing Republican Mayor Tomás Regalado’s Miami Forever project, we’re proving that Americans want to combat climate change.
Which is, sadly, a message that needs to be sent. With the Trump administration’s intention to retreat from our commitments to the Paris agreement, the global community is right to be skeptical that the country most responsible for climate change is going to do its fair share to fix the problem.
However, America’s allies should be heartened by the emergence of a coalition of over 2,500 governors, mayors, legislators, faith groups universities and businesses dedicated to proving that We Are Still In this fight to meet the Paris agreement goals. Climate change is a global problem that requires global cooperation to solve. If our economic competitors can’t trust us to live up to our end of the deal, they’re not going to want to do their part either. It is imperative, then, that we all work together to find and implement clean energy solutions. We’ve already begun seeing what is at stake if we fail.
Between sea level rise, hurricanes and mosquito-borne diseases, Miami is ground zero for some of warming’s worst impacts. But it’s also ground zero for bipartisan climate action. Since we have already begun experiencing some of the climate damages described in a recent climate report released by the federal government, politicians are hard pressed to deny the danger of carbon pollution.
The Climate Science Special Report, part of the congressionally mandated National Climate Assessment, was released earlier this month. One of its starkest warnings was that we cannot rule out the possibility of as much as eight feet of sea level rise by the end of the century if emissions aren’t reduced. A child born today will inherit a world vastly different than the one we know.
Miami is already experiencing an increase in flooding, and the seas have only just begun to rise. As glaciers continue to melt as temperatures rise, the cost to address the recurring floods will swell with the ocean waters. Eight additional feet of ocean water would spell disaster for our city, and indeed most of our low-lying coastal state.
But that doesn’t mean we’re helpless, or powerless, or hopeless. Though the national discussion on climate change tends to fall on political lines, South Florida’s bipartisan climate compact shows that it’s possible to get the GOP on board with climate action.
Let’s hope the rest of the country won’t need to experience the regular flooding that Miami faces before waking up to the urgent need to reduce emissions and improve resiliency to climate impacts. By showing how expensive it is to brace ourselves for the coming changes, we offer a firsthand lesson on the extraordinary cost of humanity’s fossil fuel addiction.
But by bringing together politicians of all stripes, we’re showing that this isn’t a problem we can’t overcome. Yes, the seas are rising, and the path to climate safety gets steeper the longer we wait. But Miami is rising to meet that challenge. And we’re not alone.
Caroline Lewis is founder and executive director of The CLEO Institute (Climate Leadership and Engagement Opportunities), a non-profit organization that drives climate action through community education and engagement.