At last year’s annual Southeast Florida Regional Climate Leadership Summit, we were encouraged when business leaders not only acknowledged the threat sea-level rise poses to the region but the role they needed to play in addressing it.
It was a major step forward in attracting the financial and political muscle needed to prepare the region for rising waters.
A year later, the three major chambers of commerce from Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties are looking to make good on that promise. Earlier this year, the business groups signed an agreement to “act and collaborate as a region” on the issue of sea-level rise, Dennis Grady, president and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce of the Palm Beaches, told the Post Editorial Board on Tuesday.
“As business organizations, we realized that we could no longer afford to get bogged down by parochialism, not on this issue,” Grady said. “Sea-level rise is a regional problem… and we are all in agreement that we need to attack it that way; with a laser point, not a shotgun blast.”
The message of the Post’s collaborative series — The Invading Sea — with the Miami Herald, South Florida Sun-Sentinel and WLRN Public Radio “was not lost on us,” Grady said, “From a regional standpoint, we now know that sea-level rise has to be at the top of our thought process in terms of future business growth and development.”
That should please the scores of climate science and government leaders attending the leadership summit that opens Wednesday at the Miami Beach Convention Center. It’s hosted by the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact.
You’d hardly be blamed for thinking that the bulk of the business community had been napping on the biggest existential threat facing our region. Real estate is a multibillion-dollar industry in South Florida.
From downtown Miami to Fort Lauderdale to West Palm Beach, cranes dot the downtown skylines amid a new construction boom. And few in the business community want to see a halt to that. We are talking jobs, after all. (And for local governments, tax revenue.)
When it comes to sea-level rise, however, our region is the tip of the spear. As we’ve said previously, predictions show South Florida is due for 1 to 2 feet of sea-level rise by 2060, endangering more than $14 billion of real estate, according to the nonprofit research group Climate Central. Of the 25 U.S. cities most vulnerable to sea-level rise, 22 are in Florida.
The threat from rising seas is not only real and visible but tangible when it comes to our tax dollars: Coastal flooding like that seen during the October full moon in Palm Beach, Delray Beach and Boca Raton communities. Saltwater intrusion into Broward drinking wells. Tens of millions of dollars spent annually on beach re-nourishment just by Palm Beach and other counties.
Enter the Climate Change Compact, now entering its 10th year, a collaborative effort between Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade and Monroe counties created in response to this environmental and economic threat. The idea was to get the four counties — and their municipalities — with arguably the most to lose to work together on resilience, mitigation and adaptation strategies.
And there has been success — mostly on the government side. Through its still relatively new Office of Resilience, Palm Beach County has been a guiding force for its municipalities; encouraging them to use the Compact’s research and strategies to help counter the effects of sea-level rise and storm surge. The town of Jupiter, for example, is updating its Coastal Management policies using, among other things, Compact maps that detail sea-level rise in Jupiter at 1 foot, 2 feet and 3 feet when investigating coastal flood risks.
The overall objective, Jupiter senior planner Garret Watson told The Post’s Hannah Morse, “was to increase the town’s resilience to climate change and sea-level rise.”
But to address these issues the right way, local governments must work hand-in-glove with businesses. To that end, Grady — who will be speaking at the summit on Thursday — says we should see more action and input from the Greater Fort Lauderdale and Greater Miami chambers, as well as his own.
“We’re beyond issue proclamation time,” he told the Post Editorial Board. “We’re committed to going to Washington, Tallahassee, wherever we need to get this issue in front of the right people: that our region is at great risk from sea-level rise.”
That’s a welcome start.
“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.