If sea levels rise as projected, no major U.S. metropolitan area stands to rack up bigger losses than Miami-Dade County. Almost 60 percent of the county is less than six feet above sea level. Even before swelling of the seas is factored in, Miami has the greatest total value of assets exposed to flooding of any city in the world: more than $400 billion. Once you account for future sea-level rise and continued economic growth, Miami’s exposed property will far outstrip that of any other urban area, reaching almost $3.5 trillion by the 2070s.
The sea level around the South Florida coast has already risen nine inches over the past century. Among experts, the optimists expect it to edge up another three to seven inches in the next 15 years and nine inches to two feet in the next 45 years. More pessimistic (some say increasingly realistic) predictions say the rise will be much faster. Even the very gradual rise of recent decades will make extensive infrastructure re-engineering necessary. However, according to a report published by the Florida Department of Transportation, it will become difficult, expensive, and maybe impossible for these efforts to keep up with the accelerated sea-level rise that is actually expected. Read more about South Florida’s battle against rising seas, featuring statements from FIU’s Pete Harlem, Henry Briceño, and Philip Stoddard, mayor of South Miami.