Sunday, May 18, 2008

Study: Will rising ocean submerge part of South Florida?

Sun-Sentinel (Florida): Polar bears and their melting habitat sent a wake-up call to South Florida water managers Wednesday. The same day the federal government added the polar bear to the endangered species list because of global warming, South Florida water managers agreed to take a yearlong look at how melting ice could raise sea levels that could claim the southern part of the state.

The South Florida Water Management District's long-term plans once anticipated the sea level rising about 1 foot by 2100, but more recent projections say the rise could be five times as much. That could move the southern tip of Florida's mainland to the Tamiami Trail and submerge swaths of some of the most populated areas along the southeast coast.

From flooding to more saltwater seeping in and fouling drinking water supplies, climate change is an issue that needs more attention, said Jayantha Obeysekera, who will lead the district's global warming review. "We cannot put up walls and stop the sea level," Obeysekera said. "Let's start looking at it [and] see what our vulnerabilities are."

On Wednesday, district officials called for spending $100,000 over the next year to study the threat of climate change. The district, which has a $1.3 billion budget, might need to do more, governing board member Charles Dauray said.

Though Dauray said his skepticism about global warming remains, he also said a rise in the sea level could factor into decisions about whether to pursue seawater desalination plants and how to proceed with Everglades restoration….

Florida county map, US Census Bureau, Wikimedia Commons

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