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Publisher's Letter

The Sea Also Rises: What's Being Done To Combat Climate Change In Fort Lauderdale As The Future Nears?

Eric Barton’s very well researched story on what we might do to survive as ocean waters rise makes two assumptions. One, that rising seas are inevitable, and some of our finest neighborhoods may be underwater in coming decades. And two, there is a lot we can do to make South Florida (mainly in his piece, Fort Lauderdale) adjust and survive as one of the most agreeable places on earth to live. We wonder. 

We wonder how realistic it is to believe that innovation can come fast enough to keep up with nature’s forces, even if the timetable for ocean rise is as predicted. Some scientists think it is coming faster, that the melting Arctic will melt faster. And that problems that are foreseen 50 to 100 years down the road, may be covering that road with water much sooner. 

We find it more than disturbing that even as people quoted in Barton’s story are considering what needs to be done to raise (literally) a city, and in fact much of South Florida, to the challenge of climate change, very little is being done to address the causes of the problem.

At a time when population growth is eating up available open space, which absorbs water, developers are pressing constantly to encroach on what open land remains. Old trees are cut down. Communities which were planned, and sold as golf course homes just a few decades ago, find those golf courses uneconomical, and giving way to houses and apartments. 

Efforts to provide non-polluting energy are often resisted, as in the recent disgraceful effort of energy companies to make solar energy more difficult for Floridians to acquire.

As low lying neighborhoods close to waterways flood on an annual basis, we see more and more high-rise buildings being built on waterfront. Forgive the cynicism, but one wonders if some of those developers may be in a panic to build and sell before people begin considering such locations unlivable. By unlivable we do not mean under water all the time. It just takes a few floods a year, when access to your property is limited or denied, to make a dream home become a liability. Nobody expects every real estate investment to be a winner, but you certainly expect the land to exist in the future.

As Barton points out, Miami Beach is being cited as a leader in anticipating climate change. It damn well should be. Recent tides have actually sent water into stores. And there are streets on Fort Lauderdale’s high-end Las Olas Isles that were closed during high water events. A few more inches and expensive floors would be ruined. And those few inches seem almost sure to come. 

The papers have pointed out that some neighborhoods, once among our most desirable, are already becoming a hard sell. You would think at the very least our governments would be taking action. But on a national level, we have a president-elect who promises to reopen mines and mills that produce and run on fossil fuels, a major source of pollution. 

Statewide, we have an administration that  doesn’t even permit the phrase “climate change” and celebrates population growth, bringing more people to Florida to worsen the problem, and possibly become victims of the result. A University of Miami scientist, noted for his doomsday warnings, summed it up nicely: They are “building like there’s no tomorrow,” says Harold Wanless, “and they’re right.”

A postcard from the future created by FAU School of Architecture