Editorial: Impact from rising seas needs to be met head-on, now


A simple change in the phase of the moon.

That’s all it takes now to flood parts of Flagler Drive in West Palm Beach. That’s all it takes to flood homeowners’ yards in Delray Beach and Boca Raton. That’s all it takes to flood tourist-laden stretches of Lincoln Road in Miami Beach.

You would think this would be enough to convince our state and federal officials that it’s time to take action to mitigate the threat of rising sea levels along Florida’s 1,200-mile coastline.

It should be enough. But thus far, the response has been … meh.

So on Monday, Sen. Bill Nelson was in West Palm Beach hosting a Senate Commerce Committee field hearing on sea-level rise to sound the alarm where it’s needed most.

“We’re doing this because we sit at ground zero for the impacts of climate change in the United States,” Nelson said, noting that three-quarters of Florida residents live near its coasts, making the Sunshine State more vulnerable than any other in the continental U.S. to rising sea levels.

It’s a familiar refrain because The Post’s own editorials have said the same. Yet Florida Gov. Rick Scott, and now President Donald Trump implicitly deny the growing threat from “climate change” by among other things, banning their staffs from even using the term.

The fact that Trump’s own Florida properties are vulnerable to the impact of climate change while his administration proposes cuts in programs dealing with the issue is paradoxical.

A recent report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) show that Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach and his condominiums in Hollywood would be partially submerged if sea level rose 3 feet by the end of the century.

“What we thought was extremely rare, large floods invading coastal cities on a regular basis, is becoming more and more probable,” said William Sweet, an oceanographer at NOAA and the report’s lead author. “The gap between our infrastructure and the global sea level is narrowing,”

A recent study published in the journal Nature concluded that with the acceleration of ice melt in Antarctica, sea levels could rise by 6 feet by 2100. At that point, Trump’s golf course at Doral, and several properties at Sunny Isles Beach would also be underwater.

Perhaps the president, despite such evidence, still chooses to see the threat from sea-level rise as theoretical.

Well, the more than 200 people who packed the West Palm Beach City Commission chambers for Monday’s hearing don’t see it that way. And neither do we.

Monday’s panel of top climate scientists and researchers called for federal help in girding the state against rising seas and extreme weather; as well as strengthening building codes and decreasing communities’ carbon footprints.

But South Florida is already feeling the impact. Jennifer Jurado, chief resiliency officer for Broward County, described how during king tides marinas are funneling water into neighborhood streets; businesses are being forced to seal front doors with caulk to keep out the water; and underground, sea water is contaminating drinking-water wells — with an estimated 40 percent of coastal wells likely to be ruined.

“These are not examples of future risk but are realities today,” she said.

It would help if Scott were on the same page as Jurado, and local officials like West Palm Beach Mayor Jeri Muoio on this issue. To her credit, Muoio has been a leader among her peers on pushing climate action.

But without billions of dollars in federal infrastructure spending to help raise sea walls, and buttress roads and shorelines it will be tough slogging for Florida’s coastal municipalities.

Our communities deserve better. Temperatures and sea levels have risen noticeably, particularly since the 1950s, said Ben Kirtman, director of the Cooperative Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Miami. “We have every reason to believe current trends we’re seeing are going to continue,” he said. “There is no credible science whatsoever that the trends we’re seeing today are going to reverse themselves.”

That means state and federal leaders must reverse themselves and see sea-level for the threat it is — today. Because it will only get worse for Florida.



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