Image: Miami tidal flooding, October 13, 2016.
The city of Miami-Dade has now joined its close neighbor, Miami Beach, in declaring a climate change state of emergency. In recent years, a dramatic increase in the frequency and duration of ‘sunny day floods’ has meant that flooding can appear suddenly, without warning, and in the absence of storms or king tides. On any given day, it is possible for residents to encounter flooded areas that can cause hazards for transportation, damage buildings and homes, or even completely block motorways. Because of this new and gathering threat, activists have pressured local government to officially declare a state of emergency in order to make funds available to combat the threat.
The city of Miami has set aside a fund of $192 million to fight the effects of climate change, but this amount is not nearly enough to implement the drastic solutions that will be necessary to protect this highly vulnerable city. As dire as the situation may be in Miami, the city of Miami Beach is facing an even greater threat, because Miami Beach is built upon an artificial foundation comprised mostly of sand. Together, the cities of Miami and Miami Beach will need hundreds of millions of dollars in order to survive through the end of this century. For this reason, both municipalities are requesting matching funds from State and Federal coffers in order to supplement the funds that have already been earmarked for this challenge. The future looks uncertain for the entire Florida peninsula unless massive flood mitigation projects can be implemented in a timely manner.
Luckily, new technologies have become available that can greatly help with the fight against climate change. In particular, drones have proven their usefulness in many ways. Drones have been deployed regularly to monitor king tides and to detect the frequent ‘sunny day floods’ that pop up in various parts of the city. Drones can be extremely useful when counting wildlife populations-without disturbing the animals, detecting areas of erosion or tidal incursion along the coastline- without putting human observers at risk, and for surveying remote and inhospitable areas- without expensive manpower and equipment. Underwater drones can collect sediment samples, survey conditions on the sea floor, and record measurements of currents and wave action. This single advancement has made an enormous contribution to the fight against climate-related devastation.
In addition to the use of drones, the city of Miami employs many other defenses in its fight against the sea. One solution is to design and implement urban reservoirs throughout the city. These reservoirs are intended to capture and absorb water during flood, rather than to allow the water to impede into areas of human habitation or into valuable business zones. Another recent development is the use of special one-way anti-tidal valves that prevent sea water from entering urban zones while still allowing fresh floodwater to drain out through the valves.
One hopeful development is political rather than technological. The current mayor of Miami-Dade, Francis Suarez, believes that the threat posed by climate change has evolved into a non-partisan issue that is shared by all, regardless of political affiliation. Mayor Suarez, a Republican, says, “I think why people are unifying on the partisan landscape is we’re focusing on the issues that we see, we see the flooding, we see the wildfires in California, we see the mega hurricanes like Dorian which put the Bahamas under 20 feet of water and killed thousands of people, so we’re dealing with the climatic events that we see, we can’t ignore them,” As studies indicate that every dollar spent on prevention saves at least seven dollars of post-flooding clean-up, it makes sense that people from every political viewpoint should unite in this battle to save Miami from the results of climate change.