Alex Harris, Miami Herald, July 11, 2019
For the state of Florida, adapting to climate change is going to be complicated, revolutionary and very, very expensive.
But so far at least, Tallahassee hasn’t invested much in protecting the most vulnerable state in the nation from rising seas. Gov. Ron DeSantis, who campaigned on a promise to address red tide and harmful algae blooms, has won initial praise from environmentalists for stepping above the low bar set by his fellow Republican predecessor, Rick Scott, a climate change skeptic who is now a U.S. senator.
In the latest budget, DeSantis more than tripled the state’s investment in planning for sea rise through its Florida Resilient Coastlines Program. That sounds considerable but in hard dollars it only raised the Scott budget of $1.6 million to about $5.5 million.
No one knows exactly how much it will cost to adapt the Sunshine State to a warming world. The only certainty is the projects won’t be cheap.
“[The costs] are going to be astronomical,” said state Rep. Holly Raschein, a Republican from Key Largo. “It’s hard for us to build a statewide plan when we don’t have a price tag on what it’s going to cost.”
In the absence of significant investment from Florida lawmakers and governors, the tab so far has fallen mostly on local governments. In South Florida alone, local governments have already spent hundreds of millions on raising roads, flood pumps and elevating buildings.
“There’s a strong economic case there to start investing now,” said Yoca Arditi-Rocha, head of Miami-based climate advocacy group CLEO. “The multi-billion dollar question is, where do we get the money?”
Right now, South Florida climate projects in particular are funded by a mix of hiked-up fees, bond money or grants.
One day — perhaps soon — most experts agree the region will have to get more creative. That could include a concept like insuring coral reefs that help protect the coastline from storm surge and generate tourism money, like one community in Mexico is already doing. Or perhaps a statewide fund, maybe based on taxes on property sales, that would be dedicated to helping communities cover the cost of adaptation.
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