Local governments make preparations as flooding increases in coastal areas

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By Josh Dunn Columnist Miami Beach is currently facing increasingly severe flooding, and the Northeast could face similar impacts in the near future. The Eastern Seaboard of the U.S. is at high risk for coastal flooding due to ice melt increasing during warm months and sea ice recovery decreasing during cold months. “Temperatures in the Arctic are quite remarkable and very alarming,” proclaimed David Carlson, Director of the World Climate Research Programme, which is co-sponsored by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the U.N. World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the International Council for Science. The volume of sea ice at each pole was at its lowest for the month of January. This was recorded by a 38-year old satellite, according to data WMO collected from both the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) and Germany’s Sea ice Portal operated by the Alfred-Wegener-Institute. Climate change is driving average annual global temperatures up, and as temperature increases in the Arctic and Antarctic, less water is encapsulated in the ice at the poles. When less water is concentrated in the ice at the poles, more land surface is needed to account for the extra water. The result is sea level rise and coastal flooding, which creates a financial issue for citizens and businesses. The oil and gas industry is a contributor to climate change, as it is accountable for coastal flooding. Burning oil and gas is vital to many daily necessities, like driving cars and producing electricity. However it produces a byproduct called carbon dioxide (CO2), which is a primary driver of climate change when too much is released into the atmosphere. CO2 is one of many greenhouse gasses (GHGs) humans produce, but is the most abundant in the atmosphere. GHG’s absorb solar radiation from the sun that is reflected by the surface of the Earth and re-emitted back towards the surface of the Earth. The process warms the surface of the Earth and the lower atmosphere. China produces the most CO2 of any country in the world. However, the U.S. emits over twice as much per capita. The oil and gas industry represents only a portion of U.S. citizens. People living in coastal areas are specifically at risk. Rising sea level floods coastal areas during high tide and also during rainstorms. Aquifers and soil become more saturated with water, causing infiltration rates to decrease and runoff rates to increase. The federal, state and local governments are responsible for protecting its citizens against safety hazards like flooding. One safety measure that the government may take is relocating citizens inland to areas without flooding risk. However, this would require significant government funding. Distress also occurs between friends and family members when people are forced to relocate. The residents of South Florida are already facing significant impacts from sea level rise. South Florida, like the Northeast, is downstream of the Arctic and people and institutions have had to adapt to the new reality of coastal flooding. Flooding would increase the millions of dollars Florida already spends each year to reclaim its beaches. Flooding affects beach reclamation, public safety and businesses. Miami Beach has a $100 million project in place to help it adapt to the increasing sea level and subsequent flooding conditions. The project includes, installing pumps and water mains, raising roads and redoing sewer connections over the next few years in homes that are at risk in the neighborhoods of La Gorce and Lakeview. The project is only a part of a larger plan to spend $400-$500 million. The project will directly impact the property of homeowners in the area. Miami may face difficulties in getting residents to fully cooperate because homes have been built at different times, have different structures and layouts and are at different elevations. Other obstacles include bushes, sprinkler systems and walls. If the sea level continues to rise, the impacts of flooding may become more severe and complex. The U.N. estimates land ice to melt between 7.5 and 9.8 inches by 2100, however South Florida considers this estimate to be conservative and is preparing for more severe sea level rise. The Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact estimates the sea level to rise six inches by 2030 and 31 inches by 2100. Local governments are learning more about this issue and are beginning to prepare for its financial and hazardous implications.

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