Monday, April 04, 2016

Miami Businesses Say It's a Moneymaker to Adapt for Warming

Miami Beach is spending $100 million to raise roads and sea walls as well as build pumps to move floodwater from rising sea levels into Biscayne Bay. (Photo Credit: Erika Bolstad) Click to Enlarge.
The seas might be rising, but business continues to boom in South Florida, where local governments already plan to spend billions of dollars adapting to climate change.

The message was clear from the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce on Friday, in a place where the environment is the economy:  Learn not just how to live with water, but how to profit from it.  The Sea Level Rise Solutions Conference came two days after scientists released a study showing that glacial melt in Antarctica could double previous estimates of sea-level rise if greenhouse gas emissions continue unabated.
Miami, and in particular the island city of Miami Beach, has already begun experiencing the effects of rising seas.  In September, as climate experts gathered in South Florida, a king tide amplified by the gravitational forces of a super moon flooded coastal areas.  It created a striking image as world leaders prepared for the Paris climate talks.

The Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce panel last week didn't spend much time addressing the causes of climate change or how the community could mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. Instead, they focused almost exclusively on the business opportunities created by sea-level rise.
Squaring risk and growth
Many at the conference predicted a major shift not only in how insurers look at risk, but in building codes, which are under review in many South Florida cities and counties.  Murley said he anticipates the sort of review that required more wind-resilient construction in the state's building codes after more than 25,000 homes were destroyed during Hurricane Andrew in 1992.
Already, building codes are under review in many jurisdictions, including Miami Beach, where they must match up future development to the city infrastructure being built:  elevated roadways and other modifications to help fend off flooding.  One of the biggest concerns in the region is saltwater intrusion.  Some coastal cities, including Hallandale Beach between Miami and Fort Lauderdale, have had to abandon wells where salt water has seeped into the freshwater aquifer.  The region is particularly vulnerable because of the porous limestone that separates its freshwater source from the sea.

Yet there's little talk of retreat in South Florida, a region of more than 6 million people that includes Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties and the Florida Keys.  Miami Beach alone, a city of 91,000 people, has a property tax base of $30 billion and a tourist economy that continues to grow.  Stephen Bourne, a consultant with global engineering and design firm Atkins, said that when his firm looked at Miami Beach, it noticed a 40 percent increase in tourism from 2011.

"That speaks opportunity to us," said Bourne, whose company has developed a "stress test" for cities to help them identify weaknesses and commit to climate resilience.  "What that means is there's a strong and bold economy in the place that's threatened by sea-level rise."

Read more at Miami Businesses Say It's a Moneymaker to Adapt for Warming

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