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Front Page » Opinion » Sea level change is long term, response team should be too

Sea level change is long term, response team should be too

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Written by on June 27, 2013

Sea level change is long term, response team should be too

What area of the US would rising sea levels hit hardest?

Florida is ground zero.

What locale has the most to lose as beaches disappear under water along with coastal areas that house tens of thousands of residents and send us our best-known economic tide, beach visitors?

Welcome to Miami.

So, what county two years ago officially stopped looking at the impact of sea level changes and what it could do to mitigate their impact?

It’s your Miami-Dade County government at work.

It’s true: the county in July 2006 established a Miami-Dade Climate Advisory Task Force that advised us on what we could do — until the commission dissolved it two years ago.

Commissioners are leery of such teams, even though the teams’ only role is to advise county hall, because they fear that advisors will develop power bases that by moral suasion will force officials to turn advice into action.

Jose “Pepe” Diaz has been vocal frequently about the threat of advisory teams to the commission’s control of every decision.

So it was little wonder that when the county’s Land Use and Development Committee acted this month on a request by commission Chair Rebeca Sosa to establish a sea level rise task force, he suggested that federal studies of sea level rises and their impacts should suffice.

In the end, however, he joined in sending to the full commission next Tuesday the proposal to name five experts to assess sea level threats and suggest county responses.

Mr. Diaz shouldn’t worry: while sea level rises are expected to wash in for a century or more, the resolution allows a scant 220 days for the team to review everything known about sea level, apply it to everything from water and sewer operations to real estate and infrastructure, recommend how to react in each area, and then disappear.

It would disappear just like the former Climate Advisory Task Force.

It would disappear just as President Obama is about to issue major recommendations for national policy on environmental changes, policy his advisors say will rely on local government to enact.

It would disappear just after last week’s sea level summit for government officials in Fort Lauderdale suggested South Florida would be hit far harder than almost anywhere else by rising sea levels.

It would disappear while Miami-Dade battles increased flooding caused by rising sea levels.

It would disappear just as officials are asking the county to spend more than $12 billion over the next decade or so for water and sewer systems that are integrally tied to sea level changes.

It would just disappear, and leave no annoying experts to rile commissioners, no advisors whose strength could build — and nobody watching sea levels in any formal way with any kind of public role.

It would disappear — and it should not.

A caveat: unlike other media, we hold no brief that every extravagant claim about climate change and sea level rise is necessarily true.

We’re no more certain that huge chunks of South Florida will be under the sea in 40 or 50 years than we are that it’s all a bunch hooey. We just don’t know for certain.

But that’s the point. This task force isn’t being formed to parrot back claims of gloom and doom any more than it’s geared to reassure us that everything’s fine, ignore it all, everybody back to your desks in the World Trade Center.

If you ask experts for an assessment, you want it to be real. And if there is a real sea level threat, as seems quite possible, you want experts around for the long haul, for as permanently as anything on this earth is permanent, to advise the next step and the next and the next.

It’s fine for commissioners to take the final vote (well, that’s the only way to get this team set up), but if there is danger, why in the world direct a 220-day forced shutdown that after that leaves it to non-experts to assess risks and recommend remedies in the future?

Though we might be skeptical of all sea level danger claims, as might commissioners, it’s foolhardy in the extreme not to monitor risks and responses formally and responsibly over the decades — not just days — to come.

We’re sure commissioners will set up this team. It’s the responsible thing. And politically, they can’t afford not to.

But when they do, they should delete the 220-day sunset clause and leave it open-ended.

After all, the commission has the power to shut down or revamp the sea level team at any time, anyhow, for any reason.

There is no valid need to build in a requirement to quickly wash the sea level response team out to sea.

Sea Level Change Is Long Term Response Team Should Be Too

Written by on June 27, 2013

By Michael Lewis
What area of the US would rising sea levels hit hardest?

Florida is ground zero.

What locale has the most to lose as beaches disappear under water along with coastal areas that house tens of thousands of residents and send us our best-known economic tide, beach visitors?

Welcome to Miami.

So, what county two years ago officially stopped looking at the impact of sea level changes and what it could do to mitigate their impact?

It’s your Miami-Dade County government at work.

It’s true: the county in July 2006 established a Miami-Dade Climate Advisory Task Force that advised us on what we could do — until the commission dissolved it two years ago.

Commissioners are leery of such teams, even though the teams’ only role is to advise county hall, because they fear that advisors will develop power bases that by moral suasion will force officials to turn advice into action.

Jose "PepeÓ Diaz has been vocal frequently about the threat of advisory teams to the commission’s control of every decision.

So it was little wonder that when the county’s Land Use and Development Committee acted this month on a request by commission Chair Rebeca Sosa to establish a sea level rise task force, he suggested that federal studies of sea level rises and their impacts should suffice.

In the end, however, he joined in sending to the full commission next Tuesday the proposal to name five experts to assess sea level threats and suggest county responses.

Mr. Diaz shouldn’t worry: while sea level rises are expected to wash in for a century or more, the resolution allows a scant 220 days for the team to review everything known about sea level, apply it to everything from water and sewer operations to real estate and infrastructure, recommend how to react in each area, and then disappear.

It would disappear just like the former Climate Advisory Task Force.

It would disappear just as President Obama is about to issue major recommendations for national policy on environmental changes, policy his advisors say will rely on local government to enact.

It would disappear just after last week’s sea level summit for government officials in Fort Lauderdale suggested South Florida would be hit far harder than almost anywhere else by rising sea levels.

It would disappear while Miami-Dade battles increased flooding caused by rising sea levels.

It would disappear just as officials are asking the county to spend more than $12 billion over the next decade or so for water and sewer systems that are integrally tied to sea level changes.

It would just disappear, and leave no annoying experts to rile commissioners, no advisors whose strength could build — and nobody watching sea levels in any formal way with any kind of public role.

It would disappear — and it should not.

A caveat: unlike other media, we hold no brief that every extravagant claim about climate change and sea level rise is necessarily true.

We’re no more certain that huge chunks of South Florida will be under the sea in 40 or 50 years than we are that it’s all a bunch hooey. We just don’t know for certain.

But that’s the point. This task force isn’t being formed to parrot back claims of gloom and doom any more than it’s geared to reassure us that everything’s fine, ignore it all, everybody back to your desks in the World Trade Center.

If you ask experts for an assessment, you want it to be real. And if there is a real sea level threat, as seems quite possible, you want experts around for the long haul, for as permanently as anything on this earth is permanent, to advise the next step and the next and the next.

It’s fine for commissioners to take the final vote (well, that’s the only way to get this team set up), but if there is danger, why in the world direct a 220-day forced shutdown that after that leaves it to non-experts to assess risks and recommend remedies in the future?

Though we might be skeptical of all sea level danger claims, as might commissioners, it’s foolhardy in the extreme not to monitor risks and responses formally and responsibly over the decades — not just days — to come.

We’re sure commissioners will set up this team. It’s the responsible thing. And politically, they can’t afford not to.

But when they do, they should delete the 220-day sunset clause and leave it open-ended.

After all, the commission has the power to shut down or revamp the sea level team at any time, anyhow, for any reason.

There is no valid need to build in a requirement to quickly wash the sea level response team out to sea.To read the entire issue of Miami Today online, subscribe to e-MIAMI TODAY, an exact digital replica of the printed edition.   Top Front Page About Miami Today Put Your Message in Miami Today Contact Miami Today © Copyright 2013 Miami Today designed and produced by Green Dot Advertising and Marketingvar gaJsHost = ((“https:” == document.location.protocol) ? “https://ssl.” : “http://www.”);document.write(unescape(“%3Cscript src=’” + gaJsHost + “google-analytics.com/ga.js’ type=’text/javascript’%3E%3C/script%3E”));var pageTracker = _gat._getTracker(“UA-4990655-1″);pageTracker._initData();pageTracker._trackPageview();

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