More Than One Million Florida Homes Could See "Chronic Flooding" by 2100

Another day, another study warning Miamians they are living through the last few decades on Earth in which South Florida streets will remain dry most of the year. For all the bellyaching Miamians do about traffic, entrenched political corruption, or absurdly prohibitive housing prices, not a damn thing matters as much as the fact that within a few decades Miami-Dade County is going to start looking a lot like Venice and feeling, temperature-wise, a lot like Venus.

In yet another dire warning for South Florida, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UOCS) yesterday released a report titled "Underwater: Rising Seas, Chronic Floods, and the Implications for US Coastal Real Estate," which once again cautions that there are fewer than 100 years before flooding becomes a daily, chronic problem in tons of Florida communities. Per the UOCS, more than 1 million homes in Florida will face "chronic flooding" risks by the end of the century.

"On the east coast of the United States, generations of people have made homes and set up shop close to the water, making this coast some of the most developed land in the country," the report warns. "Often this development has taken place within fragile environments such as barrier islands and filled wetlands; some of the gravest consequences of this overdevelopment will be along the New Jersey and Florida coasts."

The group of researchers says that in the next 30 years alone, roughly 64,000 houses will become chronically flooded — and 12,000 of those homes are in Miami Beach. ("Chronic flooding" in this case means homes that flood 26 or more times per year.) By 2100, Florida's 1 million homes will account for 40 percent of chronically flooded properties in America.

In an addendum to the study, the UOCS included city-by-city figures for the entire nation. In the worst-case scenario, the scientists say that as many as 145,966 homes in Miami (worth $41.5 billion) could chronically flood, along with 76,074 houses (worth a whopping $52.4 billion) in Miami Beach, 23,723 in Miami Gardens  ($3.3 billion), 83,909 in Hialeah ($16.2 billion), and 5,543 on Key Biscayne ($7.8 billion). In what the report calls "greater Miami," more than 40 percent of the entire property-tax base is at risk.

Those are the only Miami-Dade municipalities the UOCS included in its list — but it's clear from attached figures that the county is slated to take the brunt of the damage:

More Than One Million Florida Homes Could See "Chronic Flooding" by 2100
Union of Concerned Scientists

Of course, we've known some version of this for quite a while, and while cities including Miami and Miami Beach are installing seawalls and flood-water pumps, climate scientists and activists say local, state, and federal officials aren't doing nearly enough to curb greenhouse emissions and tackle the root of the climate-change problem. The new UOCS report warns that politics seem to be "business as usual" in Florida and New Jersey, the two states most at risk for chronic, life-altering flooding.

"Development in at-risk areas such as the coast of Florida has continued despite the increasingly apparent risks of sea level rise," the report warns. "Indeed, with the allure of its weather and beaches, Florida’s housing market has remained strong, even as sunny-day flooding has become a familiar and disruptive reality."

The report notes that sticking to the basic goal of the Paris Agreement — capping warming to below 2 degrees Celsius — would save "about 93 percent of Florida’s at-risk homes." Of course, Donald Trump ripped up that agreement in 2017, and it appears the globe is almost certainly headed toward more than 2 degrees of warming. In fact, a different team of analysts warned yesterday that the U.S. is locked into blowing its Paris goals by now.

The world is on track to hit some of the direst predictions climate scientists have issued — and a study in 2017 warned that if that happens, more than 2.5 million Miamians could potentially flee the city and become climate refugees.

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