Washington, D.C. — According to independent research, no state in the nation is more economically vulnerable to rising sea levels than Florida. Yet, Miami-Dade and its surrounding counties, are woefully unprepared for the inevitable effects of a changing climate, particularly in low-income areas.
The Center for American Progress has released a report looking at the efforts that the Miami area has made to boost climate change resilience, the disproportionate effect climate change will have on lower-income residents, and just how far Miami-Dade and its environs need to go in order to protect their citizens from climate change related sea level rises and extreme weather.
“The Miami area is on the forefront of extreme weather and sea level rise associated with climate change,” said Cathleen Kelly, CAP Senior Fellow and co-author of the report. “While some mayors in Miami-Dade and other south Florida cities are taking steps to prepare their communities for the effects of climate change, the county’s resilience efforts are severely lacking and leave residents vulnerable to increased flooding and increased instances of extreme weather, such as storms and heat waves. The county’s low-income populations are the most vulnerable. It is time for Miami-Dade officials to seriously implement climate change resilience and social equity measures.”
Miami-Dade County is the seventh most populous county in the country. The entire region—which also includes Broward, Monroe, and Palm Beach counties—is expected to near a population of 7 million within 15 years. It is also one of the most vulnerable areas to sea level rise; it has seen sea level rise about one foot since the pre-industrial days of the 1870s and will see a projected 6.8 feet of sea level rise by 2100. Flooding has become routine, even on sunny days, due to higher tide levels. The higher sea levels will exacerbate already extreme weather in the form of hurricanes. With nearly 60 percent of Miami-Dade County residents living with financial instability, a crippling storm could be devastating for the county.
The report includes more than half a dozen steps that Miami-Dade County officials should begin to implement now in order to increase their county’s resilience to the major effects of climate change—starting with low-income areas that are most at risk of heat waves, flooding, and other climate change effects. The steps include:
- Prioritizing climate change resilience and mitigation starting with implementing existing county recommendations and embedding climate risk reduction management into planning and policies across all county government offices
- Improving public knowledge of climate change risks through education and outreach to the county’s diverse communities
- Creating a public climate change forum to ensure Miami-Dade residents receive an opportunity to voice their concerns and ideas for strengthening equitable resilience to county officials
- Mapping social and climate vulnerability and developing resilience solutions using data and community input to help planners and emergency responders focus resources on addressing the most urgent resilience needs
- Strengthening and leveraging social cohesion to help Miami-Dade’s low-income communities prepare for climate change impacts and expand knowledge of available resources to build climate resilience
- Leveraging community organization strengths to help county leaders communicate with low-income residents and provide resilience assistance to those vulnerable to climate change risks
- Planning for storm displacement before it happens by prioritizing extreme weather preparedness and incorporating lessons learned from other metropolitan regions that experienced mass displacement of residents by extreme storm damage
The report comes days before Catalyst Miami’s summit on building climate resilience and social equity in South Florida.
Click here to read the report.