Report: Rising Seas Could Cost Florida $75 Billion Over 20 Years

Jun 20, 2019
Originally published on June 20, 2019 11:01 am

A new national study concludes that rising sea levels could cost U.S. states more than $400 billion over the next 20 years. And Florida has the highest price tag.

The report is by the environmental advocacy group Center for Climate Integrity. It says Florida would have to pay around $75 billion to build new seawalls to defend against a two-foot sea level rise by 2040.

The report uses seawalls as a common metric that can be used nationwide. But seawalls aren't environmentally friendly, and they are impractical for places like the Florida Keys, which are islands. The report says there are other ways to protect coastlines, including beach renourishment, raising roads and infrastructure and improving drainage.

Florida is by far the most heavily impacted state, with costs reaching nearly $76 billion statewide, 23 counties facing at least $1 billion in seawall expenses alone (and often far greater price tags according to local estimates), and 24 communities where building just this rudimentary level of coastal protection will cost more than $100,000 per person.

Center director Richard Wiles says in an era of exploding federal debt, getting funding help from Washington is more difficult. He says so-called "polluters" should pay for rising seas, similar to the way tobacco companies were sued for health risks.

"The entirety of the fossil fuel community, if you will, industry, needs to be responsible for literally bailing out those communities and making sure they have a future where people can live where they've always lived," he said.

But it is unclear how to identify those polluters - and what methods might be used to get them to help to ease the cost of those needed modifications.

The report says the low-lying Florida Keys are most at risk. Pinellas and Hillsborough counties were eighth and tenth on the list, with a price tag of about $3 billion dollars apiece.

"From extreme weather events, severe heat, heavy rain, and sunny-day flooding to the spread of vector-borne diseases, climate gentrification and more, the state of Florida will face a much wider range of costs to prepare for climate impacts," the report states. "Communities are already paying to adapt and avoid irreparable damage to property, infrastructure, lives and livelihoods— for example, the City of Miami voted in 2017 to tax itself $192 million to combat coastal flooding and improve infrastructure to withstand sea level rise. In Miami-Dade County, $16 billion in planned sea level rise infrastructure upgrades are scheduled for over the next five years. Yet in the state at large, most current and future expenditures have not been identified in budgetary planning."

Here's a link to the complete report.

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