The threat that sea-level rise poses to South Florida is being well described by The Invading Sea project. And I applaud this effort.
The media collaborative is trying to alert the region’s residents that the warming climate is causing the sea to rise. We see evidence of the threat during storms and king tides, but most residents don’t consider it a pressing problem.
They’re mistaken. We are already paying the price and it’s going to get worse.
That’s because insurance companies, banks and financial firms are beginning to take sea-level rise into account when they make their business plans.
The highest land paralleling the southeastern coast of Florida is the Florida East Coast Corridor where the new Brightline trains run. Henry Flagler’s surveyors picked the highest land for his trains because it’s cheaper to lay track along the high land because the railroad then won’t have to build as many bridges.
In the decades ahead, South Florida’s high ground will become more and more valuable because it will be less vulnerable to the rising sea.
In low-lying areas, insurers will stop insuring the risk and banks will stop offering mortgages. Local governments’ credit rating will drop. These consequences were laid out in a piece by Jeff Nesbit in New York Times.
When considered how to rate a city’s bonds, insurance rating agencies such as Moody’s Investor Services, Standard and Poor’s and Fitch are starting to consider the climate-change risks a city faces. Cities that are taking steps to cope with climate change will get better bond ratings. That will save them lots of money if they want to sell bonds.
Some people don’t “believe in” climate change and sea-level rise, but as the late Sen. Patrick Moynihan said, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.”
One cannot pick a fight with science . . . and not lose that fight.
Michael Owen Sartin is a 20-year-resident of South Florida. He’s a retired physician assistant who formerly taught Advanced Placement Environmental Science in the Broward County schools. He is an advocate for scientific thinking and sustainable stewardship of the planet.
“The Invading Sea” is a collaboration of four South Florida media organizations — the South Florida Sun Sentinel, Miami Herald, Palm Beach Post and WLRN Public Media.