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How rising sea levels could affect you

Posted: 4:09 PM, Nov 19, 2019
Updated: 2019-11-19 19:18:05-05
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Pictures and predictive maps tell the story here. So, if you are reading this please click on the attached video. It is a snapshot of how climate change could impact our community in the form of sea level rise. We are talking only decades from now—in the life of your children and grandchildren. Perhaps to be felt in some places, in some fashion, within the financial life of, say, a 30-year mortgage.

Dr. John Renne is an urban planner. He works with students at Florida Atlantic University on studies in urban and regional planning. They have plenty to think about here. I asked Dr. Renne about the worst-case scenario for sea level rise in our region. His answer, “It looks bad.”

Think about king tides that increasingly drench streets and neighborhoods. Now imagine that mess every single day in 2040 for some places. And worse still in 2060. Then 2080. And on and on. Dr. Renne says, “When does it get to the point where we can no longer protect something and the question is, what does the homeowner and property owner do at that point?” Keep in mind, Dr. Renne is NOT a climate scientist. He is simply taking their data and modeling its potential impact here.

RELATED: View maps for the Florida sea level sketch planning tool

Case in point--the area around Royal Palm Way, not far from Palm Beach’s famed Worth Avenue fashion district. One National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration worst case estimate foresees 14 inches of water sloshing around at high tide in 2060. Jump ahead to 2080 and the same model predicts 33 inches of water at high tide. Every day. Look at the graphics and maps I mentioned at the outset. That is a lot of water. Engineering—sea walls, elevated roads and homes/businesses, pumping stations, etc—might hold back that tide. But for how long? And it’s not just barrier islands at risk. Inland areas face risks too as you can see in the attached video.

Concern over rising sea levels in South Florida

One sliver of good news—relatively speaking. Dr. Renne says the Palm Beaches and Treasure Coast will fare better under worst case scenarios than Broward, Miami-Dade and Monroe counties. Far better, because the land to the south is at a lower elevation. Huge swaths of those three counties could face problems hard to imagine, no matter efforts to mitigate sea level rise. Dr. Renne says, “You are going to have tremendous economic and social impacts. People are going to migrate farther north into Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast because we are on higher ground.”

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Huge relocations, along with homes and businesses insurers might not touch someday because of heightened risks from sea level rise. The scenarios are daunting. Again, models are only that. What’s more, communities will not sit idly by without trying to hold back the rising tide.

Ignoring the problem, experts say, is not an option. And the sooner it is met head on, they argue, the better.

WPTV is committed to Protecting Paradise. We are focused on environmental issues with a goal of helping to bring awareness to existing problems and search for workable solutions. Have a story idea? Email us at paradise@wptv.com