New Video: The Perfect Tide – Sea Level and the Future of South Florida

December 6, 2016

I spent mid-October in the Miami Beach, Florida area, with Rolling Stone writer Jeff Goodell.

Jeff has been working on the climate and sea level rise story for quite a few years, and we originally met when Jeff came along with the first Dark Snow Project field trip in 2013. Since then I’ve followed and occasionally chatted with Jeff, especially about developments in South Florida, one of the most vulnerable and threatened regions of the planet.

While working on this piece, I’ve shown raw footage to friends, including journalists and regular folks – and the universal reaction is, “Why isn’t this being reported?”
Well, that’s starting to happen.
Florida’s future is now, and it is going to make life in the climate denial/Fake News business a little harder.

Justin Gillis in the NYTimes:

For decades, as the global warming created by human emissions caused land ice to melt and ocean water to expand, scientists warned that the accelerating rise of the sea would eventually imperil the United States’ coastline.

Now, those warnings are no longer theoretical: The inundation of the coast has begun. The sea has crept up to the point that a high tide and a brisk wind are all it takes to send water pouring into streets and homes.

Federal scientists have documented a sharp jump in this nuisance flooding — often called “sunny-day flooding” — along both the East Coast and the Gulf Coast in recent years. The sea is now so near the brim in many places that they believe the problem is likely to worsen quickly. Shifts in the Pacific Ocean mean that the West Coast, partly spared over the past two decades, may be hit hard, too.

These tidal floods are often just a foot or two deep, but they can stop traffic, swamp basements, damage cars, kill lawns and forests, and poison wells with salt. Moreover, the high seas interfere with the drainage of storm water.

In coastal regions, that compounds the damage from the increasingly heavy rains plaguing the country, like those that recently caused extensive flooding in Louisiana. Scientists say these rains are also a consequence of human greenhouse emissions.

“Once impacts become noticeable, they’re going to be upon you quickly,” said William V. Sweet, a scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Silver Spring, Md., who is among the leaders in research on coastal inundation. “It’s not a hundred years off — it’s now.”

Local governments, under pressure from annoyed citizens, are beginning to act. Elections are being won on promises to invest money to protect against flooding. Miami Beach is leading the way, increasing local fees to finance a $400 million plan that includes raising streets, installing pumps and elevating sea walls.

This most recent piece warns specifically about the threat to coastal real estate.

Ian Urbina in the NYTimes:

Real estate agents looking to sell coastal properties usually focus on one thing: how close the home is to the water’s edge. But buyers are increasingly asking instead how far back it is from the waterline. How many feet above sea level? Is it fortified against storm surges? Does it have emergency power and sump pumps?

Rising sea levels are changing the way people think about waterfront real estate. Though demand remains strong and developers continue to build near the water in many coastal cities, homeowners across the nation are slowly growing wary of buying property in areas most vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

warming planet has already forced a number of industries — coal, oil, agriculture and utilities among them — to account for potential future costs of a changed climate. The real estate industry, particularly along the vulnerable coastlines, is slowly awakening to the need to factor in the risks of catastrophic damage from climate change, including that wrought by rising seas and storm-driven flooding.

But many economists say that this reckoning needs to happen much faster and that home buyers urgently need to be better informed. Some analysts say the economic impact of a collapse in the waterfront property market could surpass that of the bursting dot-com and real estate bubbles of 2000 and 2008.

The fallout would be felt by property owners, developers, real estate lenders and the financial institutions that bundle and resell mortgages.

4 Responses to “New Video: The Perfect Tide – Sea Level and the Future of South Florida”

  1. dumboldguy Says:

    Excellent video.

    I hate to wish ill on anyone, but the sooner south FL goes under, the sooner we will begin to really pay attention.

    I have been fighting a battle with my daughter and son-in-law, who live in southern New Jersey and came within inches of having their house flooded by Sandy. They hold four degrees from prestigious schools between them (including one JD), and should know better, but they are denying reality and gambling that they can “hold on” until it’s more convenient to move to higher ground—-i.e., when the kids are all in college, etc. Their house has already lost value because of the decline of Atlantic City’s casinos and area economy and its proximity to the water, and I am having great difficulty getting them to understand the meaning of “stranded assets”.

    Their town and county has “done a Miami” and installed improved drainage in the street in front of their house and nearby streets—-king tides have been bringing 6-12 inches of flooding there for years. There was talk of a dike/sea wall project that would have been mostly federally funded and protected their neighborhood of ~80-90 homes, but the 30 or 40 people who have boat docks on the water put the kibosh on it—-they wouldn’t have been able to get to their boats.

    • ubrew12 Says:

      I’m having similar issues with my ex-wife on the ‘Left Coast’. She loves the house, but pretty soon its property value is going to be impacted, and I know she was hoping to pass its value on to our children. This is a game of musical chairs and the consequence for the person left standing is financial ruin. My dad in Hawaii, a long-time climate denier, doesn’t understand why his sewage bill has been jacked up in the last few years. I tell him “get used to it, in a couple years this will be the ‘good old days’ “.

  2. The owner probably had to demolish the previous home due to flood damage too. So why are these homes being allowed to be rebuilt? Why isn’t the city condemning the area after each home that is destroyed? Blocking that piece of land from being developed? Probably greasy fingers. Someone is getting financial benefit. Lots of people actually, builders, contractors, tax money, anyone who has to inspect the home. Et cetera.

    Where I live we had a 1000 year flood event a couple of years ago, and I see the same dang thing. Well, to be honest most of the people who lost their homes didn’t rebuild on top of the old house. But enough did. Our canyon will scrub the new home away the next time we have a flood too. And it’s not going to be a 1000 years from now either. WHY were these people allowed to build there again?

  3. Seeing the same thing here in Colorado. Massive floods in 2013 swept out many mountain homes and roads (not unlike the fires from the year before did), a friend of mine among the dead. Now we’re all paying so people can rebuild in what one writer called The Stupid Zone. Those so-called 1-in-one-thousand events are getting much more frequent….

    Being old and dumb myself, I’m with Dumb Old Guy: it will take a major event to slap people in the face hard enough to make them pay attention. The collapse of the Miami/FL real estate bubble would certainly qualify. (You would think. People are being resiliantly stupid on this!)

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