Saturday, October 24, 2009

South Florida counties to team up to combat climate change

Curtis Morgan in the Miami Herald:… [On] Friday, Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach, joined by Monroe, agreed that they share a large, looming problem they better start working on together fast: global warming, which brings with it the scary prospect of waves washing against abandoned beachside hotels before the century is up.

In the first regional summit on climate change, more than 200 political leaders, planners, water experts and environmental scientists from the four counties met in Fort Lauderdale. They kicked off what participants pledged would become a cooperative effort to address rising seas and temperatures that threaten to profoundly change the landscape and life from Key West to Palm Beach -- and the rest of the state as well.

Broward Commissioner Kristin Jacobs, who spearheaded the summit, said it makes not only practical sense to share resources, data and strategies but political sense as well. The three counties alone have more than 5.5 million residents, more people than 30 entire states. Only 80,000 live in Monroe but the low-lying islands of the Keys rank among the nation's most at-risk communities and will be the first measuring sticks of sea rise.

…Judging by the presentations, South Florida will need every dollar it can get, with major infrastructure overhauls needed even under the low-ball sea level scenarios. With just an eight-inch rise, drainage canals can lose 40 percent of capacity and salt intrusion will taint and squeeze underground drinking water aquifers. With a four-foot rise by 2100 -- projected by Miami-Dade's climate task force -- the sea covers much of the barrier islands and begins percolating up from the Everglades in low-lying western suburbs….

…But Jim Murley, director of Florida Atlantic University's Center for Urban and Environmental Solutions and chairman of a state energy and climate commission, said political leaders will need to start doing more, including something many have been loath to do -- saying ‘no’ to some development.

"I would suggest to you we need to reset the way we think about doing land-use planning in the future,'' he said. "We're going to have to start to understand how we can accommodate where to put the water.''…

North Beach, part of Miami Beach, shot by Marc Averette, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 License

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