Coastal inundation fostering innovation, economic activity by necessity
IN MIAMI BEACH, they call it “sunny-day flooding.” You’ll be hanging out downtown under clear blue skies—only to see, whoa, the streets slowly filling with water.
Miami Beach, Florida, is a coastal city built on porous limestone, so as climate change melts polar ice into the oceans, water is literally pushed up out of the ground. “It’s an eerie, scary, unnerving feeling, like something out of a sci-fi movie,” says Philip Levine, mayor of the city of 90,000. On days when Miami Beach actually gets a coastal storm, it can see a 2-foot flood.
So the city decided enough is enough. Levine has begun a $400 million resilience plan that calls for installing high tech drainage systems and painstakingly raising the roads several feet. “It’s not fun to go and raise people’s fees,” Levine says. But what choice do they have?
Global-warming denialists, including, at times, the new US president, claim that climate change isn’t happening. This is abject nonsense—ask anyone who lives near an ocean. They’re all dealing with the unsparing laws of physics, and the 2.6 inches the sea rose between 1993 and 2014. Flooded basements don’t care whether you believe burning carbon-based fuel is raising Earth’s temperature or not.
That’s why coastal cities worldwide are pumping more than $280 billion a year into an Adaptation Economy, which puts a price tag on preparing for the future. That amount is increasing by more than 4 percent a year in well-off, developed cities.