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The Sunshine Economy

Climate Change And Rising Seas In Florida's 27th Congressional Race

Joey Flechas
Miami Herald
King tide brought high waters flooding several low-lying streets on Normandy Isle in North Beach on Oct. 5, 2017.

Florida's 27th Congressional District has miles of coastline. The district stretches from near Black Pointe Marina in south Miami-Dade County to the Venetian Causeway, and all of Key Biscayne and Miami Beach.

"Whatever is going on in the rest of the country, we're not denying climate change," says Donna Shalala, the Democrat running for Congress in the district. "For us, it's life and death."

Both Shalala and her Republican opponent, Maria Elvira Salazar, think federal infrastructure spending would help the district cope with the threat posed by higher sea level and climate.

"We need a massive infrastructure bill," Salazar says, "funded by the federal government, to come and help us with the climate change. Regardless [of] whether we believe that it was man-made or God-made or whomever made it, we have it, and our coastal areas are a danger."

In 2015, the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Compact released updated sea level rise projections. It estimates sea levels will rise by 6 to 10 inches by 2030, up to 22 inches by 2060 and as much as 57 inches by 2100, as compared to the sea level in 2015.

Credit Southeast Florida Climate Change Compact, 2015

"These are big challenges in which we've got to get the government of the United States' attention and resources," says Shalala. "We can develop the strategies for South Florida."

Shalala was against the Trump Administration's decision to leave the Paris Accords, which committed countries to work to keep global temperatures from rising. The U.S. originally agreed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 28 percent.

The Trump Administration also has proposed freezing auto emission standards. The plan, announced in August, would rollback Obama-era standards for fuel efficiency in cars and trucks. If implemented, fuel efficiency standards would remain at 2020 levels through 2026.

"It's pretty scary," says Shalala. "It's consistent with their anti-science view. And that's scary for the whole country."

Salazar doesn't have a position on carbon emission standards. "I will study it deeper," she says. "I will be able to make a decision whether imposing those restrictions on the emissions will help my district. If that is the case, I will support it."

In a journalism career covering news from high global finance to neighborhood infrastructure, Tom Hudson is the Vice President of News and Special Correspondent for WLRN. He hosts and produces the Sunshine Economy and anchors the Florida Roundup in addition to leading the organization's news engagement strategy.