Climate Change

Rising sea levels prompt South Florida to demand statehood

The rising levels threaten to submerge living spaces, national parks and a nuclear reactor site

By DTE Staff
Published: Monday 27 October 2014

The blue line in the image is based on Climate Central's data showing where 6 feet of sea level rise will be on Miami Beach. Hal Wanless, professor at University of Miami, estimates a 2-feet sea level rise by 2048 (Photo courtesy: Maps)

The city of South Miami has passed a resolution demanding that Florida state be split into two, creating South Florida as the 51st state of the United States of America. Rising sea levels, which threaten to submerge large parts of Miami by the end of this century, have driven public opinion in favour of this move.

The city mayor and commissioners passed the resolution 3-2 earlier this month, citing the state’s failure to address the climate change concerns of the southern part of the state.

The resolution states, “South Florida's situation is very precarious and in need of immediate attention. Many of the issues facing South Florida are not political, but are now significant safety issues.”

It explains that while North Florida is approximately 120 feet (1 foot = 0.30 metre) above sea level, a very large portion of South Florida averages less than 15 feet above sea level. National parks like Everglades National Park and Big Cypress National Preserve and 42-year-old nuclear reactors at Turkey Point are only five feet above sea level. Lake Okeechobee in South Florida, the second largest freshwater lake in the United States, could be severely compromised by rising sea levels.

The resolution cites estimates that sea levels will rise by three to six feet by the end of this century. South Florida also has very porous rock, due to which the sea water may rise through the ground and flood inland areas.

In spite of the impending damage, the resolution says these issues “do not receive the support” of state capital Tallahassee in North Florida. It says creation of the new state “is a necessity for the very survival of the entire southern region”.

If the resolution goes through, 24 counties in southern Florida will form the new proposed state. These counties occupy 39 per cent of the current area of the state and are home to 67 per cent of the total population. South Florida also generates 69 per cent of the state’s revenue.

Experts think the formation of a new state is unlikely. The proposal has to be approved by the governing bodies of the 24 counties. It would then have to pass a state electoral vote and then be approved by Congress.

“There’s not a lot written about this part of the Constitution,” Caroline Mala Corbin, a constitutional law scholar at the University of Miami, told the Tampa Tribune. “But I can’t imagine Congress would ever approve this, so in the real world it is not likely to happen.”

The passing of the proposal, however, sends out a strong message. A recent report released by the US Department of Defense calls climate change an “immediate national security risk”. Extreme weather events, temperature and sea level rise and changes in precipitation patterns will place the largest burdens on the economy, society and consequently, on the military, says the report.

Encroaching tides: how sea level rise and tidal flooding threaten U.S. East and Gulf Coast communities over the next 30 years

Sea level rise and nuisance flood frequency changes around the United States

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