A “water ambassador” from The Netherlands told officials from Broward and Miami-Dade counties on Tuesday that rising seas make South Florida one of the most vulnerable places on Earth.
Henk Ovink, The Netherlands’ Special Envoy for International Water Affairs, spoke first at a Broward Workshop gathering at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts.
Before introducing Ovink, Keith Koenig, chairman of the Broward Workshop, cited a recent Florida Trend magazine article about the increasing threat rising seas pose to South Florida’s real estate market.
Unless the federal and state governments provide billions of dollars for flood control projects, the region will experience chronic flooding in the decades ahead, he said. Insurance officials are going to set much higher rates to reflect that risk, Koenig said.
Further, banks will stop providing 30-year mortgages unless governments take significant steps to cope with the higher water that the warming climate is going to generate, he said.
Ovink told the audience that The Netherlands has been dealing with flooding for centuries. Large parts of the country are below sea level and the Dutch have learned a lot about how to cope with chronic flooding.
The Netherlands has spent an enormous amount of money in recent decades to cope with river flooding and North Sea storm surges. He said South Florida is facing similar challenges because of the warming climate.
Later Tuesday, he addressed a sea-level workshop sponsored by the Office of Resilience in Miami-Dade at the Perez Art Museum.
Ovink noted that a tropical storm had already developed in the Atlantic, weeks before the start of hurricane season on June 1. He said warmer ocean waters are going to produce more storms than in the past and they’re going to develop earlier. They’re also going to be stronger because the ocean is warmer and that provides storms with more fuel.
The storm – Andrea – has fizzled near Bermuda, but its early development is an ominous sign, Ovink said.
Jim Murley, Miami-Dade’s Chief Resilience Officer, introduced Ovink, who goes around the world addressing how countries can collaborate to battle the challenges posed by extreme weather.
He said addressing such threats will be difficult and expensive. The areas that face the most risk from the warming climate are the east coast of the United States, Southeast Asia and The Netherlands, Ovink said.
Although the weather in South Florida and The Netherlands is quite different, both regions are going to have to address the threat of rising water due to higher temperatures.
“Holistic approaches are needed and there is no singular solution,” he said. “Let’s work together.”
“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.