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When it comes to climate change, one thing is certain: our oceans are rising. And South Florida is expected to be among the first regions on Earth to experience the impact. In fact, some initial preparations are already underway. WLRN-Miami Herald News presents a series of stories about the effects of sea-level rise. The project is called “Elevation Zero: Rising Seas In South Florida." Click through the pages below to see our entire archive of Elevation Zero stories.

If You Live In Florida, Your Mortgage Might Be At Risk Due To Climate Change. Symposium Explains

Leonardo Sagnotti
via Flickr

If you own a house in South Florida, you might want to start thinking hard about sea level rise.

The ocean here could rise a foot or more in the next 30 years -- the amount of time in a mortgage cycle -- according to University of Miami professor Harold Wanless and other researchers.  That means if you buy a house today, and rising seas put your house at risk for flooding, your property value might decrease... but your mortgage payments won’t.

That and much more was discussed Saturday at the first day of a public climate change “symposium” at the University of Miami.

Credit Kate Stein / WLRN
University of Miami professors Ben Kirtman, left, and John Van Leer were among panelists at a climate change symposium organized by the CLEO Institute.


Wanless and fellow University of Miami researchers John Van Leer and Ben Kirtman were among speakers at a day of panels on climate change science and risks. Audience members learned there's non-partisan, effectively unanimous consensus the climate has warmed since the 1950s, and that 95 percent of scientists say climate change is linked to human activity.

They also heard about the implications for South Florida, which Wanless said could be six feet or more of sea level rise by 2100 -- almost certainly leading to migration and displacement of entire communities.

"We have therapists in the back to help you cope," said Caroline Lewis, founder of the non-profit CLEO Institute, which partnered with the University of Miami to host the event.

Credit Climate Central
A map from the non-profit news and science organization Climate Central shows how the greater Fort Lauderdale area could be impacted if rising seas reach NOAA's "extreme" projection of more than 8 feet by 2100. You can recreate the analysis for other areas at https://riskfinder.climatecentral.org/.

Lewis was joking, but after hearing about the urgency of acting on climate change -- and the political climate that makes discussing it so difficult -- some in the audience sounded like they might appreciate the support.

"When you look at these maps and you look at the data that was presented to us, you almost feel hopeless," said Paula Johnson, who lives in the Kendall area.

But, Johnson added, "Recognizing that the impact is on all of us, then we can begin to see the political will and the economic will to make changes."

The symposium continues with a second session planned for Saturday, Feb. 10, from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. It’s open to the public and will take place at the Cox Science Center at the University of Miami, 1301 Memorial Drive, Coral Gables, FL 33146.

Tickets are $30. You can register here.