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Sea-level rise projections in the Florida Keys

Monroe County, Florida, which is the county that includes the Florida Keys, held a public meeting at the end of last month to discuss what they are going to do to respond to climate change. The agenda can be found over here. According to this article in Grist, it was a seven-hour public meeting and the overall tone was something along the lines of this:

“The water is coming and we can’t stop it,” said Michelle Coldiron, mayor of Monroe County, which encompasses the Keys. “Some homes will have to be elevated, some will have to be bought out. It’s very difficult to have these conversations with homeowners, because this is where they live. It can get very emotional.”

In attendance at the public meeting was a scientist from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), who outlined that they are expecting an additional 17 inches of sea level rise by 2040. This is the “intermediate high” scenario based on the below chart.

Which is why the county is looking to spend $1.8 billion over the next 25 years to raise some 150 miles of roads and deploy a bunch of other fixes that include things like new drains, pumping stations, and vegetation — all of which are of course intended to mitigate the impacts of sea level rise.

One problem, which shouldn’t be all that surprising, is that the county doesn’t have the money to pay for all of this. And as the quote at the beginning of this post suggests, part of “this” includes buying out many of the homes. Presumably these are the higher risk homes where there are no clear alternatives.

This is a problematic situation. Because as time goes on, one would expect the tax base here to start to decreasing. Both as homes get bought out and as overall housing demand weakens. There are also financing and insurance considerations. Already the Keys have some of if not the highest insurance premiums in Florida.

As I understand it, the Florida Keys are one of the most vulnerable areas in North America when it comes to sea level rise. And so unfortunately, the public meeting that took place two weeks ago could very well be considered a leading indicator for what’s to come.

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