UPDATE, March 11: Questions on climate change were posed in both the Democratic and Republican debates this week. See the details on our blog post here.
Sea level rise is contributing to increasingly costly flooding and the contamination of drinking water supplies with salt water for communities along the East Coast, but nowhere are these impacts of global warming more pronounced than in South Florida.
Just two facts highlight the magnitude of the issue:
- With just 9 inches of sea level rise, which is likely to happen by 2050, Southeast Florida could lose up to 70% of its gravity-powered stormwater drainage capacity. That means when it rains, communities will flood, even many miles away from the coast.
- It is estimated that inundation of real estate and infrastructure from sea level rise may have an impact of $3.5 trillion dollars in damages in Miami alone by 2070.
With stakes so high, South Florida communities have invested in climate resiliency through local action, even in the absence of any support from Governor Rick Scott’s administration.
On the federal level, action on climate change has begun, both by reducing the greenhouse gas emissions that are causing global warming and by preparing for climate change impacts, including sea level rise. The United States’ commitment to act on climate change in last year’s international negotiations in Paris established a good framework for action and steps like the Clean Power Plan will help us achieve our goals.
To avoid the worst impacts for millions of Americans, the next presidential administration will need to double down on responding climate change, which is why the mayors of 21 Florida cities, led by Pinecrest Mayor Cindy Lerner, have asked the TV networks hosting Republican and Democratic presidential debates this week in Florida (CNN, The Washington Post, Univision) to ask the candidates about climate change. They write:
We, the 21 undersigned mayors from throughout Florida, are concerned about sea level rise and climate change and the severe impacts it is having on our communities. We are equally concerned that so little attention has been paid to these issues in the presidential debates. It would be unconscionable for these issues of grave concern for the people of Florida to not be addressed in the upcoming debate you will be hosting in the state. Thus, we are writing to ask that you ask the attached questions to the candidates.
Additionally to the Republican debate host, they write: “In particular, Senator Rubio represents this state and should not be allowed to fail to provide, or side step, substantive answers to these questions.”
The questions include:
- As President, what investments will you make to protect our coastal assets and economy from the growing impacts of sea level rise and climate change?
- What are specific policies you would put in place to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help protect the future livelihoods of Americans like those in Miami from facing the worst of impacts from climate change?
- As the next President of the United States, what policies would you put in place to ensure that America delivers on its [international commitment to reduce greenhouse gases]?
As the saying goes, “time and tide wait for no man.” In no place is this as true as in Florida and as such these communities deserve answers this week.