[Senate Hearing 113-632]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office]
S. Hrg. 113-632
LEADING THE WAY: ADAPTING TO SOUTH
FLORIDA'S CHANGING COASTLINE
SUBCOMMITTEE ON SCIENCE AND SPACE
COMMITTEE ON COMMERCE,
SCIENCE, AND TRANSPORTATION
UNITED STATES SENATE
ONE HUNDRED THIRTEENTH CONGRESS
APRIL 22, 2014
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SENATE COMMITTEE ON COMMERCE, SCIENCE, AND TRANSPORTATION
ONE HUNDRED THIRTEENTH CONGRESS
JOHN D. ROCKEFELLER IV, West Virginia, Chairman
BARBARA BOXER, California JOHN THUNE, South Dakota, Ranking
BILL NELSON, Florida ROGER F. WICKER, Mississippi
MARIA CANTWELL, Washington ROY BLUNT, Missouri
MARK PRYOR, Arkansas MARCO RUBIO, Florida
CLAIRE McCASKILL, Missouri KELLY AYOTTE, New Hampshire
AMY KLOBUCHAR, Minnesota DEAN HELLER, Nevada
MARK BEGICH, Alaska DAN COATS, Indiana
RICHARD BLUMENTHAL, Connecticut TIM SCOTT, South Carolina
BRIAN SCHATZ, Hawaii TED CRUZ, Texas
EDWARD MARKEY, Massachusetts DEB FISCHER, Nebraska
CORY BOOKER, New Jersey RON JOHNSON, Wisconsin
JOHN E. WALSH, Montana
Ellen L. Doneski, Staff Director
John Williams, General Counsel
David Schwietert, Republican Staff Director
Nick Rossi, Republican Deputy Staff Director
Rebecca Seidel, Republican General Counsel and Chief Investigator
SUBCOMMITTEE ON SCIENCE AND SPACE
BILL NELSON, Florida, Chairman TED CRUZ, Texas, Ranking Member
BARBARA BOXER, California ROGER F. WICKER, Mississippi
MARK PRYOR, Arkansas MARCO RUBIO, Florida
AMY KLOBUCHAR, Minnesota DEAN HELLER, Nevada
RICHARD BLUMENTHAL, Connecticut DAN COATS, Indiana
EDWARD MARKEY, Massachusetts RON JOHNSON, Wisconsin
JOHN E. WALSH, Montana
C O N T E N T S
Hearing held on April 22, 2014................................... 1
Statement of Senator Nelson...................................... 1
Hon. Joe Garcia, U.S. Representative from Florida................ 1
Hon. Frederica Wilson, U.S. Representative from Florida.......... 4
Hon. Philip Levine, Mayor, City of Miami Beach, Florida.......... 7
Prepared statement........................................... 9
Dr. Piers Sellers, Deputy Director, Sciences and Exploration
Directorate, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.................. 13
Prepared statement........................................... 16
Kristin Jacobs, County Commissioner, Broward County, Florida;
Member, White House Task Force on Climate Preparedness and
Prepared statement........................................... 26
Frederick Bloetscher, Associate Professor, Department of Civil,
Environmental, and Geomatics Engineering, Florida Atlantic
Prepared statement........................................... 53
William D. Talbert III, President and Chief Executive Officer,
Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau..................... 57
Prepared statement........................................... 59
Megan Linkin, Natural Hazards Expert, Swiss Re................... 59
Prepared statement........................................... 63
LEADING THE WAY: ADAPTING TO SOUTH FLORIDA'S CHANGING COASTLINE
TUESDAY, APRIL 22, 2014
Subcommittee on Science and Space,
Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation,
Miami Beach, FL.
The Subcommittee met, pursuant to notice, at 10 a.m. at the
Miami Beach City Hall, Commission Chambers, 1700 Convention
Center Drive, Miami Beach, Florida, Hon. Bill Nelson,
OPENING STATEMENT OF HON. BILL NELSON,
U.S. SENATOR FROM FLORIDA
Senator Nelson. The meeting of the Senate Commerce
Committee will come to order. And I want to thank all of you
for coming. We have a capacity crowd here today.
It is a topic of considerable concern to a great number of
people, but it is a topic of concern that a lot of people have
not even considered, and that is climate change and the direct
effects, on those of us that live on the coast because of sea
level rise. And so we have titled this hearing today--this
field hearing of the Senate Commerce, Science, and
Transportation Committee--we have titled it, ``Leading the Way:
Adapting to South Florida's Changing Coastline.''
Now, before I make my opening remarks, I wanted to extend
the courtesy to the Members of Congress in the South Florida
delegation who wanted to come by and participate with us today.
They will not be a part of the formal panel. And so I want
Congressman Garcia to share a couple of comments with us.
STATEMENT OF HON. JOE GARCIA,
U.S. REPRESENTATIVE FROM FLORIDA
Mr. Garcia. Thank you, Senator.
First off, I just wanted to thank you for doing this.
Obviously, I represent probably ground zero, if there is one,
when it comes to global warming. I represent the Florida Keys
and South Florida. And there is not a week that goes by that
this issue doesn't come before us in one way or another.
Last week alone, we had a hearing where we met with
agricultural leaders in South Dade, one of the most productive
areas for agriculture in the country, and they are having water
intrusion problems that they have never suffered before. We
met, the week before that, with leaders of the Everglades and
the Everglades community and discussed the issues they are
And, of course, I am also the southernmost Congressman of
the United States, so I represent the Florida Keys and the
issues that they already feel.
So, as part of that, sort of coming off of your leadership
with this, we are doing a series of events on Earth Week. This
Thursday at 3:30 at the University of Miami, we will be having
a similar discussion with business, the effects of sea level
rise and the impacts it will have in South Florida.
Even dogs are concerned on this issue.
Mr. Garcia. So we always appreciate that.
Just very quickly, I just want to recognize some folks that
have given tremendous leadership on this. And one in particular
is our mutual friend, Harvey Ruvin, who has been a leader on
this for decades, before this was a popular thing.
Mr. Garcia. He was talking about this when I didn't know
what it meant. And so it is an important thing, and I want to
Senator Nelson. He was talking about this when you were an
Mr. Garcia. Thank you, Senator. Thank you.
Mr. Ruvin. Now, wait a second----
Mr. Garcia. I agree with that statement.
Mr. Garcia. But this is important to all of us, and how it
And, finally, it is about being pragmatic, Senator. You
have shown the ability in the Senate to be pragmatic, to find
common sense solutions to the issues before us. If we posture
this as an ideological debate, we don't deal with the problem.
And while this may be a problem, it could be a tremendous
opportunity for South Florida, for the entire country, because
on the issues of technology that can affect these things, on
the issues of finding alternative energy, on so many issues,
Florida and the United States is a leader. I know you have been
part of that leadership group.
And I thank the Mayor for hosting us, as well as the City
of Miami Beach, where I am a part-time resident.
Thank you very much, Senator, for doing this.
Senator Nelson. Thank you, Congressman.
Senator Nelson. Other than the panel that will testify
today--of course Harvey has already been acknowledged--Mayor
Cindy Lerner of Pinecrest is here.
Senator Nelson. And we have several members of the City
Commission of Miami Beach. Would you stand and be recognized?
Senator Nelson. I want to thank all of you for coming
today. We especially thank the City Commission and the mayor
for hosting us here.
And I specifically wanted to come here because this is
ground zero. High tide, there is flooding. Over the last 50
years--we will hear testimony--sea level rise has been in
Florida any place from five to eight inches. It is real. And
yet some of our colleagues in the Senate deny it. Jim Inhofe, a
good person, a good Senator for his State of Oklahoma, he
debunks the idea. But he is one of a very few.
What happens in the discussion of climate change is the
fact that the media, wanting to be fair and balanced, present
it as if it is 50-50. But look at the scientific community and
the proof that we hope to hear today to enter into the
Now, this is an official meeting of the U.S. Senate. And
testimony is being recorded by our recorder, Senate recorder,
and it will be a part of the official record of the U.S. Senate
and the Committee on Commerce.
Now, we particularly--it is just coincidental, this is the
44th anniversary of Earth Day. And so here in South Florida,
ground zero, to discuss with Floridians what we are doing to
protect our coastal ecosystems and economies despite rising sea
So you say, well, why don't we put up dikes like Holland?
But Holland has a completely different terra firma. We are on
this massive substrate of limestone and coquina rock, which is
porous and it is infused by water. And so you could put up a
dike, but it is not going to do any good, because through the
substrate, which is like Swiss cheese, the water flows.
And so we have to come up with innovative, new kinds of
solutions for what in fact is happening, despite what one-tenth
of one percent of the folks that talk about this issue of
climate change say. We ought to be listening to the 99 percent
of scientific evidence.
I am also glad to return to my native parts. I was born in
Miami. As a matter of fact, I was born in the Victoria
hospital. It is no longer a hospital. At one point, it was a
Senator Nelson. It was, and I guess today is, a mixed-use
medical facility over near the old Orange Bowl.
Miami was a totally different community back then. As a
matter of fact, I will never forget, as a kid, at age six, I
was in the Orange Bowl parade. Now, that was held on New Year's
Eve, and that was one of the big social events of Miami. And it
would start along Biscayne, and it would go down to Flagler and
then turn west on Flagler. At age six in the Orange Bowl
parade, you know what I was? I was a Latin dancer.
Senator Nelson. I was raised on Biscayne Bay the first
years of my life. And I want to ensure that South Florida
continues to thrive as this wonderful fabric of mix that has
become the center, a microcosm of the Western Hemisphere. I
want to see us continue to thrive economically and as a
vacation destination, a beautiful place to live and do
So we best get about the process of recognizing what is
happening all around us. Now, we are going to have to face it
head-on, which is the purpose of the hearing. The Federal
Government certainly needs to step up and do its part. We need
to lead the way and cut down on pollution from cars and power
plants, and I will go on and on.
Now, since the Congresswoman has arrived, Congresswoman, I
want to give you a moment. I am going to stop my opening
comments for brief comments from you.
STATEMENT OF HON. FREDERICA WILSON,
U.S. REPRESENTATIVE FROM FLORIDA
Ms. Wilson. Good morning. I am fighting a frog in my
throat. But it is pleasure to be here this morning. And our
great Senator, thank you so much for organizing this event.
And this is a very, very scary subject for South Florida.
And we have read so many op-eds about what we can foresee in
the future, and I even wrote one for the Sun Sentinel back in
December. There was one in Rolling Stone and the Miami Herald
that just frightened everyone.
So we are hoping that people in Congress and in our State
legislatures will begin to take climate change seriously. It is
something that we cannot afford to ignore. People say it is
going to cost so much money. Well, whatever it costs, we should
begin to spend that money.
And I am very pleased that so many of our counties
throughout the state of Florida have begun their own
initiatives, being very creative to address this issue. Because
before we know it and not so very long from now, we will be
losing so much of our coast.
So thank you so much for bringing this important issue to
our community. I serve on the Science, Space, and Technology
Committee and as the Ranking Member of Technology in the
Florida House of Representatives. And it is a pleasure to be
here and to listen to all of the testimony, because every time
we listen, we learn. And every time someone talks about it, the
conversation becomes larger and larger, and maybe some of the
people who don't even believe in science--some of them serve on
the Committee with me. They don't believe in science, period.
Ms. Wilson. They will begin to listen and will begin to get
on board with this train that we have to set up.
Thank you so much.
Senator Nelson. Thank you, Congresswoman.
Senator Nelson. May I ask the witnesses to come up, please?
As they are getting settled, as we get into this topic, we
want to make sure that our resources, not just funding for
research, not just funding for infrastructure, but research and
brain power, is focused on cutting-edge science and the
technology that will develop from it and that will help us
adapt and respond to the effects of sea level rise.
So what we have in this room today are the leaders who are
concerned about this issue. Now, by the way, we invited the
rest of the members of the Commerce Committee. My colleague,
Senator Rubio, on the Committee is out of town.
But my colleague, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode
Island, because of the Easter recess, he is actually coming to
Florida this Thursday and Friday and will be doing a series of
climate change events, first starting on Thursday, where I will
join him in Jacksonville, and then he will progress on further
south. And it is going to end up, I think, in Broward on
So, all of you leaders, you aren't waiting on anyone to
start preparing for climate change. We can't afford to, with
Florida being ground zero. For example, according to the
National Climate Assessment, about half of $1 trillion in
coastal property valuation would be at risk given two feet of
sea level rise in this state. Now, if the last 50 years has had
five to eight inches, you can see that is right down the line.
So to reduce the costly and damaging impacts of sea level
rise, we are going to hear about how some of our towns and
cities have been making upgrades to stormwater and wastewater
And, oh, by the way, the reason, when the rains come, that
you don't flood is because we have a flood control system,
which, by the way, we are trying to completely replumb as we
restore the Everglades. It was a mistake that was done over the
course of the past century of draining the Everglades.
But for the urban areas, drainage is based on gravity. And
it is not the movie.
Senator Nelson. Well, if the sea level rises, what happens
to that ability when the rains come and the floods occur and
you need to get the water off of the neighborhoods by gravity?
You can't do it. So you have to go to much more expensive
systems of pumping.
And that is just one of the little things that communities
in South Florida and the Everglades restoration projects are
all having to face.
And so today we are going to hear from a very distinguished
panel. First, we are going to hear from the Mayor of Miami
Beach, Mayor Philip Levine. And he is going to discuss the key
actions his administration has proposed to keep the tidal
floods out of Miami Beach.
Get ready. The high tides are coming in October. So we are
going to have a real demonstration here of something that is
And then we are going to hear from Dr. Piers Sellers,
former NASA astronaut, currently the Deputy Director for
Sciences and Exploration at Goddard Space Flight Center in
suburban Maryland. And he will help us understand the facts of
climate change and sea level rise.
Dr. Sellers, what flight did you fly on?
Mr. Sellers. 112, 121, 132, sir.
Senator Nelson. Three flights. This is the real deal right
Senator Nelson. And the last one was?
Mr. Sellers. 132, which was 2010. We were up there and saw
the Gulf oil spill.
Senator Nelson. He was 2010. The space shuttle program was
shut down, of necessity, in 2011. Two more flights after Dr.
Sellers. We had 135 flights, and, as you remember, two of those
were lost and 14 souls lost.
And so, thanks to the great work of organizations like
NASA, there can be no denying that climate is changing and that
we are seeing the effects right now. And we are going to hear
about some of NASA's satellites that are so important for us to
calibrate and measure.
And then we are going to hear from Broward County
Commissioner Kristin Jacobs on how the Southeast Florida
Regional Climate Change Compact uses Federal resources and data
for adaptation strategies for the impacts of climate change.
And then we will hear from Dr. Fred Bloetscher, who is an
Associate Professor at Florida Atlantic. He will cover climate
change aspects and impacts to Florida's infrastructure as well
as to its coastal and wetland ecosystems.
And then we are going to hear from Bill Talbert, Miami-Dade
Tourism and Convention Bureau, so that we can fully understand
the economic importance of the coastlines. Florida's coast is
home to 75 percent of our population.
Our population, by the way, in Florida, if you didn't know
it, is a big deal. This year, we are overtaking New York in
population. By the end of the year, we will be the third
largest state, close to 20 million people. Seventy-five percent
of that population lives on the coast. And, of course, in our
economy, especially here in South Florida, tourism is a key
And, finally, I have asked a representative of the
reinsurance industry to talk about how private sector uses of
climate change data will help them in their risk modeling.
Now, you may recall that before I came to this job I had
the toughest job that I have ever had in public service, and
that was Florida's elected insurance commissioner. And during
that time in the 1990s, I could not get insurance companies to
pay attention--American insurance companies to pay attention--
to climate change and sea level rise. In the 1990s, European
insurance companies were beginning to pay attention, but not
And so Dr. Megan Linkin, she is the natural hazards expert
from Swiss Re, to explain how their industry has no choice but
to try to quantify the cost of climate change impacts to
measure what is the risk and how much they ought to charge for
So I thank everybody that is here. We have a very heavy
Now, what we are going to do, we are going to take your
written statements, we are going to insert them into the
permanent record of the Committee, and I am going to ask you
all if you would share with us, about five minutes each, your
comments, and then we will get into questions. I may be
questioning you as you go, but we will see how it progresses.
So, Mr. Mayor, we will call on you first.
STATEMENT OF HON. PHILIP LEVINE, MAYOR,
CITY OF MIAMI BEACH, FLORIDA
Mr. Levine. Thank you. And, Senator, first of all, my
apologies from that barking constituent that you heard
upstairs. He wanted to come down here and testify, but we
wouldn't let him.
I may go longer than 5 minutes, so cut me off at any time.
Senator Nelson. Mr. Mayor, whenever you have a bomb-
sniffing dog, that dog is always welcome.
Mr. Levine. I wish he was that useful.
Mr. Levine. Subcommittee Chairman Nelson and distinguished
members of the Subcommittee, it is an honor to be here today to
share with you how the City of Miami Beach is responding and
adapting to the impacts of climate change.
I am Philip Levine, Mayor of the City of Miami Beach. For
almost 30 years, I have been an integral member of the Miami
Beach community. Over the years, I have established a number of
successful beach-based businesses, creating hundreds of job
opportunities for local and area residents while contributing
to the city's tax-revenue base.
In 2010, I was tapped by President Obama's Secretary of
Commerce to serve on a Task Force advising on U.S. tourism.
Through my involvement with the task force, I worked to
strengthen the nation's growing international tourism industry,
which in turn strengthened our economy.
Now, as the Mayor of Miami Beach, I face the challenge to
mitigate the tidal flooding our city is currently experiencing
as a result of rising seas and to address other pressing issues
associated with climate change.
Before I begin, I would like to welcome you and introduce
you to our unique city. Miami Beach is a barrier island located
in southeast Florida between Biscayne Bay and the Atlantic
Ocean that was developed by filling in natural mangrove
wetlands with dredge soil over a porous limestone base.
Our urbanized island is situated within the sensitive
habitat of the Biscayne Bay Aquatic Preserve and has flourished
because of its natural assets, including parks, natural and
man-made waterways, sea grass beds, mangrove shorelines, sand
dunes, and over 7 miles of white sandy beaches.
Miami Beach is globally recognized for our rich history as
a cultural and entertainment tourism capital and our role as an
international center for innovation and business. In 2012, the
city drew 5.8 million overnight visitors, which spent $9.2
billion or 42 percent of the tourism revenue generated in
Miami Beach's real estate, including an inventory of 1,516
properties that contribute to the National Register of Historic
Places and 12 historic districts, is worth over $23 billion.
Despite being only 0.3 percent of Miami-Dade County's land
mass, this value represents 12 percent of the County's total
real estate value.
Florida and the U.S. cannot afford to lose our city.
However, due to climate change, the future of Miami Beach and
other coastal communities has become more uncertain.
In the last century, scientists have encountered indelible
evidence that our climate is warming. The Intergovernmental
Panel on Climate Change has reported that over the period of
1901 to 2010 the global mean sea level rose by 0.19 meters,
which is over half a foot. In 2012, a U.S. Geological Survey
study concluded that sea levels along the East Coast of the
country will rise three to four times faster than the global
average over the next century. And the U.S. Army Corps of
Engineers has projected that the water around Miami could rise
up to 0.6 meters, which is two feet, by 2060.
These projections are alarming, particularly for a city
like Miami Beach that has an average elevation of 4.4 feet
using the North American Vertical Datum of 1988. Our geographic
location and low-lying topography make us inherently vulnerable
to flooding, storm surge, and other climate change impacts.
Therefore, it is imperative that our city is prepared to face
these growing challenges so we can continue to thrive and
contribute to the success of the region and our Nation.
Sea level rise is our reality in Miami Beach. We are past
the point of debating the existence of climate change and are
now focusing on adapting to current and future threats. My
testimony here today is to share with you the anticipated
short-term and long-term challenges Miami Beach is facing due
to climate change, to highlight the mitigation and adaptation
strategies we currently have in place to make our city
resilient in a changing climate, and to instill a sense of
urgency in the Federal Government to prioritize climate change
action and policy.
Climate Change Challenges: Miami Beach's most pressing
climate change challenge is sea level rise, because we are
already seeing its effects firsthand. In recent years, Miami
Beach has observed an increased frequency of urban flooding
caused by higher tides, elevated groundwater levels, and
Street flooding so regularly impacts our city that
residents have become familiar with its effects on city
operations and their daily lives. It is not uncommon to worry
about vehicles parked in areas with quickly rising tidal waters
or to observe residents wading barefoot through knee-high flood
waters to access their homes and local businesses.
This reality is not acceptable, and it is getting worse.
During last years king tides in October, there was 1\1/2\ feet
of saltwater that inundated the streets. According to the
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the king tides
this October are anticipated to be three feet and nine inches
above mean high water, which is almost three inches higher than
our city saw last year.
Miami Beach also recognizes storm surge as a pressing
climate challenge. Like sea level rise, storm surge raises the
waters surrounding Miami Beach above average levels, resulting
in flooding, and causes damages to upland properties and
infrastructure. During Hurricane Sandy in 2012, we experienced
waves as high as 10 feet, which caused significant flooding and
beach erosion throughout our city.
While Miami Beach is familiar with hurricanes, scientific
studies indicate that extreme weather events, such as storms,
floods, and hurricanes, will increase in frequency and
Since I entered office in November 2013, I have made it my
top priority to mitigate flooding and other climate change
impacts. In 2014, I formed a Blue Ribbon Panel on Flooding
Mitigation to oversee the city's response to flooding and
provide a comprehensive and visionary approach to flood
management and sea level rise adaptation.
The panel's mission extends beyond providing guidance on
stormwater design criteria and helping to prioritize
infrastructure upgrades. For example, the panel has also made
recommendations to increase base flood building elevations and
has discussed the effects of climate change on our urban
design. The City Commission relies on the panel's
recommendations to implement short-term strategies and long-
term policies and solutions.
In coordination with the panel, Miami Beach is working
diligently to address existing flooding concerns. Guided by our
updated Stormwater Management Master Plan, we are upgrading our
aging gravity-based stormwater infrastructure with tidal
control valves, pump stations, and other innovative structures
that will improve drainage by preventing seawater from entering
the system and by quickly expelling flood waters from urban
areas, even during periods of elevated tidal or water table
Senator Nelson. Mr. Mayor?
Mr. Levine. Yes, sir.
Senator Nelson. We are going to wrap up here.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Levine follows:]
Prepared Statement of Hon. Philip Levine, Mayor,
City of Miami Beach, Florida
Subcommittee Chairman Nelson and distinguished members of the
Subcommittee, it is an honor to be here today to share with you how the
City of Miami Beach is responding and adapting to the impacts of
I am Philip Levine, Mayor of the City of Miami Beach. For almost 30
years, I have been an integral member of the Miami Beach community.
Over the years, I have established a number of successful Miami Beach-
based businesses, creating hundreds of job opportunities for local and
area residents while contributing to the city's tax-revenue base. In
2010, I was tapped by President Obama's Secretary of Commerce to serve
on a Task Force advising on U.S. tourism. Through my involvement with
the Task Force, I worked to strengthen the Nation's growing
international tourism industry--which in turn strengthened our economy.
Now as the Mayor of Miami Beach, I face the challenge to mitigate the
tidal flooding our city is currently experiencing as a result of rising
seas and to address other pressing issues associated with climate
Before I begin, I would like to welcome you and introduce you to
our unique city. Miami Beach is a barrier island located in southeast
Florida between Biscayne Bay and the Atlantic Ocean that was developed
by filling in natural mangrove wetlands with dredge spoil over a porous
limestone base. The island is situated within the sensitive habitat of
the Biscayne Bay Aquatic Preserve, and is has flourished by linking the
urban environment to its natural capital including parks, natural and
man-made waterways, sea grass beds, mangrove shorelines, sand dunes,
and over seven miles of white, sandy beaches. Miami Beach is globally-
recognized for our rich history as a cultural and entertainment tourism
capital and our role as an international center for innovation and
In 2012, the city drew 5.8 million overnight visitors, which spent
$9.2 billion or 42 percent of the tourism revenue generated in Miami-
Dade County. Miami Beach's real estate, including an inventory of 1,516
properties that contribute to the National Register of Historic Places
and 12 historic districts, is worth over $23 billion. Despite being
only 0.3 percent of Miami-Dade County's land mass, this value
represents 12 percent of the County's total real estate value. Florida
and the U.S. cannot afford to lose our city. However, due to climate
change, the future of Miami Beach and other coastal communities has
become more uncertain.
In the last century, scientists have encountered indelible evidence
that our climate is warming. The Intergovernmental Panel for Climate
Change has reported that over the period of 1901 to 2010, the global
mean sea level rose by 0.19 meters, which is over half a foot. In 2012,
a U.S. Geological Survey study concluded that sea levels along the east
coast of the country will rise three to four times faster than the
global average over the next century and the U.S. Army Corps of
Engineers has projected that the water around Miami could rise up to 24
inches by 2060. These projections are alarming, particularly for a city
like Miami Beach that has an average elevation of 4.4 feet North
American Vertical Datum 1988.
Our geographic location and low-lying topography make us inherently
vulnerable to flooding, storm surge, and other climate change impacts.
Therefore, it is imperative that our city is prepared to face these
growing challenges so we can continue to thrive and contribute to the
success of the region and our Nation. Sea level rise is our reality in
Miami Beach. We are past the point of debating the existence of climate
change and are now focusing on adapting to current and future threats.
My testimony here today is to share with you the anticipated short-term
and long-term challenges Miami Beach is facing due to climate change,
to highlight the mitigation and adaption strategies we currently have
in place to make our city resilient in a changing climate, and to
instill a sense of urgency in the Federal Government to prioritize
climate change action and policy
Climate Change Challenges
Miami Beach's most pressing climate change challenge is sea level
rise because we are already seeing its effects first-hand. In recent
years, Miami Beach has observed an increased frequency of urban
flooding caused by higher high tides, elevated groundwater levels, and
oversaturated soils. Flooding so regularly impacts our city that
residents have become familiar with its effect on city operations and
their daily lives. It is not uncommon to worry about vehicles parked in
areas with quickly rising tidal waters or to observe residents wading
barefoot through knee-high flood waters to access their homes and local
businesses. This reality is not acceptable and it is getting worse.
During last year's king tides in October there was one and a half feet
of salt water that inundated the streets. According to the National
Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the king tides this October are
anticipated to be three feet and nine inches above mean high water,
which is almost three inches higher than our city saw last year.
Miami Beach also recognizes storm surge as a pressing climate
change challenge. Like sea level rise, storm surge raises the waters
surrounding Miami Beach above average levels, results in flooding, and
causes damage to upland properties and infrastructure. During Hurricane
Sandy in 2012, we experienced waves as high as 10 feet, which caused
significant flooding and beach erosion throughout our city. While Miami
Beach is familiar with hurricanes, scientific studies indicate that
extreme weather events such as storms, floods, and hurricanes will
increase in frequency and intensity.
Since I entered office in November 2013, I have made it my top
priority to mitigate flooding and other climate change impacts. In
January 2014, I formed a Blue Ribbon Panel on Flooding Mitigation to
oversee the city's response to flooding and provide a comprehensive and
visionary approach to flood management and sea level rise adaptation.
The Panel's mission extends beyond providing guidance on stormwater
design criteria and helping to prioritize infrastructure upgrades. For
example, the Panel has also made recommendations to increase base flood
elevations and has discussed the effects of climate change on our urban
design. The City Commission relies on the Panel's recommendations to
implement short-term strategies and long-term policies and solutions.
In coordination with the Panel, Miami Beach is working diligently
to address existing flooding concerns. Guided by our updated Stormwater
Management Master Plan, we are upgrading our aging gravity-based
stormwater infrastructure with tidal control valves, pump stations, and
other innovative structures that will improve drainage by preventing
seawater from entering the system and by quickly expelling flood waters
from urban areas, even during periods of elevated tidal or water table
levels. Per the provisions of our stormwater management master plan,
the standards used to design these on-going drainage projects will be
updated as new data, including sea level rise projections and local
ground water hydrology, become available. We are building a long-term
sea level rise adaptation plans that focus on flexible low-regret
strategies to accommodate a changing environment but that can be
developed into more robust plans as existing uncertainty diminishes.
The city is also reinforcing the engineering and natural buffers
surrounding our city to protect us against storm surge. We are
prioritizing upgrades to the 3 miles of public seawall surrounding our
city so they meet stringent design standards that take into account
projected sea level rise and storm surge. Additionally, we are working
with experts to identify mechanisms, like public-private partnerships,
for upgrading the 57 miles of private seawalls. In coastal areas
without seawalls, we are looking at natural infrastructure, such as
building a more robust beach and dune system and living shorelines, for
storm protection. For example, our on-going dune restoration and
enhancement project that uses an ecosystem-based approach to restore
the health of the dune system so it can continue to provide critical
storm surge and erosion protection along our eastern coast.
Miami Beach is also committed to enhancing the environmental
sustainability of our city. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate
Change concludes that the continued emission of greenhouse gases will
cause further changes in the climate system, such as a warmer ocean,
less sea ice, and higher sea levels. Therefore, in accordance with our
municipal sustainability plan, the city is also making a concerted
effort to reduce our carbon emissions in our city operations through a
platform that leads our residents by example. Most recently, the City
leveraged Federal Stimulus Funds to complete facility lighting and
lighting control upgrades, HVAC control retrofits, water fixture
replacements, and a geothermal district cooling plant optimization to
reduce energy usage in select city facilities. We are also expanding
the city fleet to include more vehicles that produce low-emissions and
use alternative fuel options.
Thanks to the support we have received from the State and Federal
governments, we are reducing the number of single-occupancy vehicles by
developing a more robust multi-modal transportation system and
improving the availability of public transit options. We are designing
our system using a complete streets approach to improve pedestrian and
bicycle connectivity throughout the city and encourage the use of
alternative transportation. We are also working to increase the
incentives available to residents who are helping us reach our reduced
carbon emission goals, such as users of low-emission and electric
Moving into the future, Miami Beach is looking to become the nexus
of innovation for short-term and long-term climate change planning. We
are looking within and beyond our borders for innovative solutions to
our climate change challenges. In September 2013, the city hosted a
one-day seminar where experts from southeast Florida and the Kingdom of
the Netherlands engaged in multidisciplinary, cross-cultural
discussions designed to explore if, where, and how Dutch approaches to
water management, flood protection, and urban design are relevant in
making our city more resilient. Over 100 individuals, including Miami
Beach residents and business owners, government agency representatives,
scientists, and students, were in attendance. Thanks to these
collaborative discussions, we are currently evaluating water management
strategies that we had not previously considered like the addition of
water retention to public and private properties and of water storage
components to new structures.
We will continue to foster and support information exchange by
working with our local, national, and international partners like the
Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact (the Compact). The
Compact is a collaborative effort among Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade
and Monroe Counties, their municipalities and partners who have come
together to facilitate regional planning efforts. In 2012, the Compact
released the Regional Climate Action Plan that provides an integrated
framework to guide policies that align regional goals; reduce green
house gas emissions; address vulnerabilities, such as water supply;
preserve natural resources; effectively respond to risk and
emergencies; and incorporates public outreach. Our on-going
participation with the Compact is helping us and its members coordinate
resources and develop win-win strategies that accomplish multiple goals
to address climate change impacts.
Miami Beach will continue to face numerous challenges in the future
and is committed to seeking and implementing solutions to reduce
climate change impacts. Over the next five years, we will spend over
$300 million to complete neighborhood drainage projects that will
alleviate chronic street-level flooding and reduce property flooding
concerns. We are also funding two large-scale coastal protection
projects, including the $300,000 effort to restore and enhance our dune
system and our $25.7 million plan to upgrade the 3 miles of public
seawalls surrounding our city. We are investing in our future, but we
need your support.
Miami Beach needs the Federal Government to prioritize identifying
economically-feasible sand sources for the continued restoration of our
beaches. Since our beaches were initially restored by the U.S. Army
Corps of Engineers in 1980, they have not only been instrumental in
spurring our economic growth and establishing our city as one of the
country's top tourist destinations, but they have also provided our
investments and infrastructure with necessary storm surge protection.
Recently, the offshore sand deposits that the U.S. Army Corps of
Engineers depends on for the on-going maintenance of our beaches were
depleted and alternative sand sources have yet to be identified. If a
viable domestic source cannot be identified by the U.S. Army Corps of
Engineers on-going Southeast Florida Sediment Assessment and Needs
Determination (SAND) Study, the city urges that the Federal Government
take the necessary steps to allow the use of non-domestic sand sources
in the Dade County Beach Erosion Control and Hurricane Protection
Project. Your pledge to preserve this critical asset is imperative to
protect the future of our economy, our infrastructure, and our
We also respectfully request your continued support of Federal
agencies like the U.S. Global Change Research Program, the U.S.
Geological Survey, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that inform and
contribute to our on-going planning and management efforts. Miami Beach
is already directly engaging qualified experts and fostering cross-
disciplinary dialogues with local universities such as Florida
International University, Florida Atlantic University, and the
University of Miami to further investigate local challenges, like the
anticipated changes to our hydrology. However, U.S. communities, like
Miami Beach, also depend on the data gathered by these Federal agencies
to evaluate threats to public services, our infrastructure, our
residents, and our industries.
Our city was the first municipality in the region to take sea level
rise into consideration in stormwater management and we will continue
to be at the forefront of planning for climate change and contributing
to make Miami Beach and the region resilient. The city is committed to
ensuring that we continue to thrive as a world-class tourist
destination with a high quality of life for its residents and we are
looking for your commitment to help make that happen.
Subcommittee Chairman Nelson and distinguished Subcommittee
members, the City of Miami Beach would like to thank you for convening
this hearing and for giving me the opportunity to testify before you. I
would be pleased to answer any questions you may have.
Senator Nelson. Let me ask you on that point, so that is,
what you are preparing to be ready for this October and for
Mr. Levine. Absolutely. Yes, sir.
Senator Nelson. And the cost of this must be enormous.
Mr. Levine. Senator, we are projecting the cost to be
anywhere from $300 million and $400 million. Matter of fact, we
have a commission meeting tomorrow, and we are going to be
hopefully passing that resolution tomorrow to give the staff
the go-ahead to move forward.
Senator Nelson. And you already have this in the works in
anticipation of this fall.
Mr. Levine. We are going to be installing about three pumps
for this fall, and the rest of the pumps will be in place over
the next two or three years.
Senator Nelson. To what degree have you seen flooding in
the streets of Miami Beach in the last couple of years?
Mr. Levine. It has gotten worse and worse. It is various
areas. Alton Road in Miami Beach, which is a main thoroughfare,
gets very flooded at certain times of the year.
The interesting thing about it, which we all know, it is no
longer about rain or storm. On a beautiful sunny day, we could
see our streets being flooded, which relates to what you said,
with the water coming back up through our porous limestone and
flooding our streets through the drains.
Senator Nelson. And is that flooding on Alton Road, is that
usually connected with high tide?
Mr. Levine. It is connected with high tide, yes.
Senator Nelson. To what degree do the substantial summer
rains add to the problem?
Mr. Levine. Well, that is a whole other story, and that
happens as well, Senator. A lot of times during the summer
rains, we won't have the proper drainage for the water to get
out of our streets. So with the pumping system, which are
saltwater pumps--as you said, we can't rely on gravity
anymore--we are going to rely on headway of the water to be
pushed out and treated and back into the bay.
Senator Nelson. Well, I want to thank you for the
leadership of the City of Miami Beach.
We are going to hear from Commissioner Jacobs in a moment
about the overall efforts of other jurisdictions to get in and
start preparing for the future problem.
Dr. Sellers, did you do a spacewalk?
Mr. Sellers. I did six, sir.
Senator Nelson. Tell everybody, to what degree do you think
the views in the movie ``Gravity'' looked realistic?
Mr. Sellers. Actually, sir, the views in the movie were
spot-on. There was a lot of other stuff in the movie that I
couldn't have agreed with, if you like, like how good-looking
Mr. Sellers. But the views were right on the target, and it
is a good 16 dollars' worth just to see those.
Senator Nelson. And what year were you accepted as an
astronaut? In what class?
Mr. Sellers. 1996, Sardines.
Senator Nelson. I see.
Mr. Sellers. There were a lot of us, so they called us the
Senator Nelson. Dr. Sellers is an example of what is called
a mission specialist in the space shuttle program, usually
Ph.D.s, some medical doctors, as opposed to the pilot
astronauts, who are usually military test pilots and who are so
accurate that they can put it on a dime. And then some of the
mission specialists are also test pilots and a Ph.Ds.
So, Dr. Sellers, share with us for about five minutes.
STATEMENT OF DR. PIERS SELLERS, DEPUTY DIRECTOR,
SCIENCES AND EXPLORATION DIRECTORATE,
NASA GODDARD SPACE FLIGHT CENTER
Mr. Sellers. OK. Well, good morning, Senator Nelson and
citizens of Florida. It is my pleasure to appear before you
today to discuss the state of science on climate change, with
particular reference to global warming, sea level rise, and the
likelihood of increases in the intensity of extreme weather
events like hurricanes.
I would like to share with you the science community's
current understanding of why the climate is changing, how it is
changing, and what some of these predicted changes mean for
your Floridian coastal areas. We hope this information will be
useful to you for policymakers and citizens in planning for
necessary adaptation and mitigation efforts.
Now, Earth Science has made some amazing advances over the
last three decades, principally thanks to the data provided by
a constellation of Earth-observing satellites. The view from
orbit allows us to observe the whole world many times per day
using a very wide spectrum of techniques and, most importantly,
using a small set of well-understood, well-calibrated
instruments. NASA has been at the forefront of this effort,
with significant contributions provided by NOAA, USGS, and our
Now, Senator Nelson and I have both had the privilege of
seeing the world from space. Space flight allows one to stand
back, or float back, and take in the big picture. My take-home
impression--when I say ``home,'' I mean here, Earth--is that we
inhabit a very beautiful but delicate planet. And the dynamic
engine of planet Earth is the climate system that allows all
life here to prosper and grow, including us humans.
First of all, some facts. Over the last 150 years, the
evidence from multiple archives consistently shows that surface
temperatures have warmed, on average, by 0.8 degrees
centigrade--that is 1\1/2\ degrees Fahrenheit--but with higher
increases over land and in the northern high latitudes.
You can see the figure there. You can see the warming
around the Arctic Circle and the northern continents, in
Greenhouse gases from fossil-fuel burning act as a
radiation-trapping blanket in the Earth's lower atmosphere and
are very likely the main cause of the current global warming.
I could use some light here.
Mr. Sellers. If I could have some light back? Thank you.
OK. Can you hear me better now?
Senator Nelson. That is much better.
Mr. Sellers. Oh, much. Sorry about that.
Anyway, so there is the pattern of global warming over the
last 100 years or so. And you can see the pattern of warming
around the northern continents and the Arctic Circle in
particular, warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet.
OK. The best estimate of the human contribution to this
warming by our activities is close to 100 percent for the last
So the planet is predicted to be out of energy balance,
which means that more energy is coming into the system than is
leaving. About 90 percent of this extra energy has been used to
warm the oceans, with about seven percent to melt ice and only
three percent of the energy to warm the atmosphere.
The increase in ocean heat content over the last few
decades is shown in this figure. This is the top two
kilometers, which is like the top mile and a half, of the
global ocean; and it is the heat content, how much is being
stored in the ocean. And you can see it is steadily going up
Figure 3--we talked about ice melt--shows the decline in
the Arctic ice sea cover over the last 35 years. And this is a
satellite measurement from 1979 to now.
These changes in the flow of heat in the climate system are
driving many of the other changes that we are here to talk
about today. NASA's Earth Science program has a strong emphasis
on understanding these changes in the global energy and water
cycles using computer models and the current constellation of
17 satellites, with more planned.
Sea level can be very accurately measured by satellites,
and since 1993, NASA and its partners, NOAA and the French
space agency CNES, have been monitoring sea level from space.
And here you can see, sea level rise, three millimeters a
year since the first measurements from space, 1993 to 2015--
Senator Nelson. From 1993 to 2015, what is the NASA
satellite measurement of total increase?
Mr. Sellers. I could work that out for you. Boy, it is
dangerous to do math on your feet, isn't it? So that is about
70 centimeters, which is about over two feet.
Sorry, correction, millimeters, which is 70 centimeters, it
is about six inches or something.
Senator Nelson. Six inches.
Mr. Sellers. Yes.
Senator Nelson. Since 1992.
Mr. Sellers. No, wait a minute. You are asking me to do the
calculation right now, and I will do it using the chart.
Seventy centimeters, which is--I only think in 70 millimeters,
which is 2\1/2\-3 inches, 3 and a bit inches. Thank you. Three
inches since 1993.
Senator Nelson. 1993. Just a little over two decades.
Mr. Sellers. Yep. That is quick.
Senator Nelson. That is quick.
Mr. Sellers. OK.
OK. In the 2014 IPCC report, there are still large
uncertainties in the maximum sea level rise scenarios; that is
the predicted sea level rise. But the likely range has been
expanded to up to 98 centimeters, which is about three feet, by
2100. And some of our ongoing research programs are directly
aimed at reducing this uncertainty.
As the global climate warms further, contributions from
melting of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets will become
And since we are running out of time, I will just show you
this figure, which shows the rate of loss of ice from Greenland
to Antarctica. And you ought to really look at the sum of
those, which is the right-hand bar. Different measurement
techniques are shown with different colors. But that is 250
gigatons per year being lost from the ice sheets. Each gigaton
is a cubic kilometer of ice, so this is an enormous ice-mass
OK. Let's move ahead and talk about extreme weather.
Predicted changes in tropical cyclone intensity is the main
thing that I think is of interest to you. Calculations indicate
that the mean maximum wind speed of tropical cyclones is likely
to increase by up to 11 percent globally due to the projected
warming. The frequency of the most intense Category 4 to 5
storms will more likely than not increase by a substantially
larger percentage in some basins, including the North Atlantic.
Rainfall rates are also predicted to increase. The
projected magnitude is on the order of 20 percent within 100
kilometers--that is 60 miles--of the tropical cyclone center.
This increase in rainfall may increase flooding potential along
the tracks of land-falling storms.
NASA has two missions, the Tropical Rainfall Monitoring
Mission and the recently launched Global Precipitation Mission,
to give detailed information and help us better understand the
relationships between rainfall and tropical cyclone intensity.
Now, what does all this mean for Florida? By the end of the
century, while an overall decrease in Atlantic tropical
cyclones is expected, it is more likely than not that the
frequency of Category 4 to 5 storms will increase--sorry, that
is hurricanes, Category 4 to 5 hurricanes will increase. And
rainfall near the centers of these hurricanes will also
It is important to remember that it is the combination of a
steady increase in sea level, combined with a projected
increase in the rare but extreme weather events, which
represents the greatest threat to Florida's coastal areas.
So, in closing, I emphasize that our ability to
continuously observe changes in the global climate system,
including ice sheets, sea level, and ocean characteristics--
this is critical to improving our understanding of the physical
processes at work.
All the data collected by NASA are made freely available to
researchers and the public. Scientists at NASA and elsewhere in
the U.S. and internationally are studying changes in the
Earth's system as a matter of high priority in order to provide
you--that is, the citizens and leaders of this country--with
the best possible information with which to prepare for the
These sustained measurements and the supporting scientific
research are critically important to improving our
understanding of this planet and will allow us to better
predict the phenomena associated with global climate change.
Thank you for your attention.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Sellers follows:]
Prepared Statement of Dr. Piers Sellers, Deputy Director, Sciences and
Exploration Directorate, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
Chairman Nelson and Members of Congress from the state of Florida,
it is my pleasure to appear before you today to discuss the state of
science on climate change, with particular reference to global warming,
sea level rise and the likelihood of increases in the intensity of
extreme weather events. I would like to share with you the science
community's current understanding of why the climate is changing, how
it is changing and what some of these predicted changes mean for your
coastal areas. We hope that this information will be directly useful to
policy makers and citizens in setting policies and for planning
necessary adaptation and mitigation efforts.
Earth science has made some amazing advances over the last three
decades, principally thanks to the data provided by a constellation of
Earth-observing satellites. The view from orbit allows us to observe
the whole world, many times per day, using a very wide spectrum of
techniques and, most importantly, using a small set of well-understood
instruments. NASA has been at the forefront of this effort, with
significant contributions also provided by NOAA, USGS and our
international partners. These observations help us understand our
planet better, and thus improve our ability to project likely future
climate states, and also yield powerful societal benefits in terms of
improved weather prediction, agricultural applications and water
resources management, to name a few.
Senator Nelson and I have both had the privilege of seeing the
world from space. Spaceflight allows one to stand back, or float, and
literally take in the ``big picture''. My take-home impression, and
when I say home, I mean here--Earth--is that we inhabit a very
beautiful but delicate planet. And the dynamic engine of planet Earth
is the climate system that allows all life here to prosper and grow,
including us humans.
The global climate is defined as the long-term statistical behavior
of the atmosphere, ocean, cryospheric and associated bio-geochemical
cycles. Broadly speaking, climate is what you expect in a given year,
based on long-term records and some understanding of the underlying
physics, while weather, which varies from year to year, is what you
actually get. Sophisticated computer models of the Earth system use
satellite and other data to provide better weather forecasts. Closely
related models, based on the same physical principles, are used to
study the climate.
The world's climate has been observed to change over many time-
scales as a result of many potential causes. Over the last 150
years,\1\ the evidence from multiple archives consistently shows that
surface temperatures have warmed on average by about 0.85 +C (1.6
+F),\2\ but with higher increases over land and in the Northern high-
latitudes, see figure 1. A wide range of studies indicate that most of
this increase in temperature, and associated increases in atmospheric
water vapor pressure, ocean heat content and the decreases in Arctic
ice extent and mountain glaciers since 1950, at least, are very likely
due to human activities.\3\
\1\ IPCC 5 Working Group 1 figure 10.5
\2\ IPCC 5 Working Group 1
\3\ IPCC ARS, Working Group 1 Summary for Policy Makers
Figure 1. Color-coded map of global temperature anomalies averaged
from 2008 to 2012. Reprinted from Five Year Global Temperature
Anomalies by L. Perkins, 2013, Retrieved from svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/vis/
a000000/a004100/a004135/ and based on data from data.giss.nasa.gov/
The best estimate is that human activities have contributed close
to 100 percent of the observed warming over the last 60 years or so.\4\
There have been some significant natural variations (warming and
cooling) in global temperature over this same period due to
oscillations in the oceans and other factors, but on average these have
roughly cancelled each other out. Greenhouse gases from fossil fuel
burning act as a radiation-trapping blanket in the Earth's lower
atmosphere and are very likely the main cause of the global warming
post 1950. The evidence suggests that the most important human drivers
of change are the large increases in well-mixed greenhouse gases
(particularly carbon dioxide, methane, and chlorofluorocarbons) and
impacts of atmospheric aerosols (sulfates, black carbon, nitrates).
Smaller effects are associated with ozone changes at the surface and in
the stratosphere along with land use changes (deforestation,
irrigation). Natural drivers of change such as solar activity and
volcanic eruptions have detectable fingerprints of change in the
observations, but these changes are not large enough to appreciably add
to the long-term warming.
\4\ IPCC 5 Working Group 1
The global climate, in simplified terms, is a response to the
overall energy flow between solar forcing (heat), ocean and atmospheric
heat transport and storage of this energy and the return of the energy
back to space through infra-red emission. NASA's Earth Science program
has a strong emphasis on understanding these changes in the global
energy and water cycles using computer models and the current
constellation of 17 satellites, with more planned. Given the continued
increase in greenhouse gases that slow the loss of infrared energy to
space, the planet is predicted to be out of energy balance--that is,
more energy is coming into the system than is leaving. About 90 percent
of this extra energy has been used to warm the oceans, with about 7
percent to melt ice and only 3 percent to warm the atmosphere. The
increase in ocean heat content over the last few decades is shown in
figure 2. This resulting net flow of heat into the climate system is
driving many of the changes that we are here to talk about today.
[GRAPHICS NOT AVAILABLE IN TIFF FORMAT]
Figure 2. Global Ocean Heat Content. Reprinted from Global Ocean
Heat and Salt Content by S. Levitus, 2012, Retrieved from
www.nodc.noaa.gov/OC5/3M_HEAT_CONTENT/. Based on Levitus, S., J. I.
Antonov, T. P. Boyer, K. Baranova, H. E. Garcia, R. A. Locarnini, A. V.
Mishonov, J. R. Reagan, D. Seidov, E. S. Yarosh, and M. M. Zweng
(2012), World Ocean Heat Content and thermosteric sea level change (0-
2000 m), 1955-2010, Geophys. Res. Lett., 39, L10603, doi:10.1029/
Impacts of current climate change can be seen in multiple
independent datasets that come from in situ physical measurements and
remote monitoring by satellite. Figure 3 shows the decline in Arctic
sea ice as measured by satellite sensors over the last three decades--
it can be seen that the minimum Arctic sea ice extent has significantly
decreased over that time.
[GRAPHICS NOT AVAILABLE IN TIFF FORMAT]
Figure 3. Annual arctic sea ice minimum from 1979 to 2013 based on
satellite-based passive microwave data. Reprinted from Annual Arctic
Sea Ice Minimum 1979-2013 with Area Graph by C.Starr, 2013, Retrieved
Sea level can be very accurately measured by satellites and since
1993 NASA and its partners, principally NOAA and the French space
agency CNES, have been monitoring sea level continuously from space
using satellite altimetry missions including Topex/Poseidon, Jason 1
and Jason 2 over this time period. Future missions include Jason-3
(launching in 2015) and the Surface Water Ocean Topography (SWOT)
mission. Tide gauges provide independent assessments of altimeter data
and provide region-specific information. These in situ data inform
local projections that can differ from the global picture because of
local ground movements and regional ocean currents. Figure 4 shows the
measured rise in sea level from these satellite data sources.
[GRAPHICS NOT AVAILABLE IN TIFF FORMAT]
Figure 4. Global mean sea level rise based on data from satellite
It can be seen that global sea level has increased by over 3 mm/
year over the last 20 years. Projections of the expected increase in
sea level rise over the 21st century have also been raised as we have
learned more about ice sheets, groundwater changes and ocean heating,
see figure 5.
The 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report
was unable to give a range for the contribution of ice sheet melt to
sea level rise (but suggested that other terms would lead to a maximum
of 59 cm by 2100). In the 2014 IPCC report, there are still large
uncertainties in the maximum scenarios, but the ``likely'' range has
been expanded to up to 98 cm.\5\ Some of NASA's ongoing research
programs are directly aimed at reducing this uncertainty.
\5\ IPCC ARS Working Group 1
[GRAPHICS NOT AVAILABLE IN TIFF FORMAT]
Figure 5. Compilation of paleo sea level data, tide gauge data,
altimeter data, and central estimates and likely ranges for projections
of global mean sea level rise for RCP2.6 (blue) and RCP8.5 (red)
scenarios, all relative to pre-industrial values. From Church, J.A.,
P.U. Clark, A. Cazenave, J.M. Gregory, S. Jevrejeva, A. Levermann, M.A.
Merrifield, G.A. Milne, R.S. Nerem, P.D. Nunn, A.J. Payne, W.T.
Pfeffer, D. Stammer and A.S. Unnikrishnan, 2013: Sea Level Change. In:
Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of
Working Group I to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental
Panel on Climate Change [Stocker, T.F., D. Qin, G.-K. Plattner, M.
Tignor, S.K. Allen, J. Boschung, A. Nauels, Y. Xia, V. Bex and P.M.
Midgley (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom
and New York, NY, USA.
The principal factors that affect global sea level are ocean
temperature, ice volume, and tectonic activity. Over short, decadal and
centennial, time scales, sea level is most influenced by temperature
and ice volume changes. Currently, most of the change in global sea
level is the result of increases in ocean heat content as the ocean
expands very slightly as it warms. The melting of glaciers is estimated
to have contributed about one third of the observed sea level rise
shown in figure 4. As the global climate warms further, contributions
from melting of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets will become more
significant. Both ice sheets have lost ice at an increasing rate since
the 1990s. In particular, Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment
(GRACE) satellites that can measure small variations in the Earth's
gravity field from space show that significant amounts of ice sheet and
glacier melting are occurring in Greenland, Alaska and West Antarctica.
Figure 6 shows the latest estimates of the annual decrease in the mass
of the Earth's major ice sheets, derived using four independent data
sources over the last few decades.
[GRAPHICS NOT AVAILABLE IN TIFF FORMAT]
Figure 6. Intercomparisons of ice mass balance estimates using four
independent geodetic techniques: Input-Output Method (IOM), red), Radar
Altimetry (RA, cyan), Laser Altimetry (LA, green), and gravimetry
(GRACE, blue). Four regional areas are considered: the Greenland Ice
Sheet (GrIS), Antarctic Peninsula Ice Sheet (APIS), East Antarctic Ice
Sheet (EAIS), West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS), the combined Antarctic
Ice Sheet (AIS), and the overall estimate for the AIS and GrIS. The
grey areas constitute the reconciled estimates. From Shepherd, A., et
al., A Reconciled Estimate of Ice Sheet Mass Balance, Science, 2012
With the development of satellite and airborne remote sensing
capabilities, coupled with improved field measurements and modeling
efforts, we are beginning to understand current changes and gain
insights into what the future may hold for the Greenland and Antarctic
ice sheets. Our satellite and airborne capabilities are providing
observations of glacier flow rates, ice topography (which is indicative
of the underlying processes that affect change), mass change, and depth
and topography of the bedrock that lies beneath the ice. This last
point is particularly important because the geometry of the bed, in
conjunction with surface elevations, largely determines the extent to
which glaciers will continue to accelerate or will slow down.
Current and planned investments in missions such as the Ice, Cloud
and Land Elevation Satellite 2 (ICESat-2--measuring ice elevation
change) and the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) follow-
on measuring ice mass change) and airborne observations of ice
topography and glacier bed geometries provide insights into the
underlying mechanisms of ice sheet changes. Space geodesy, satellite
and airborne radars all provide more information that helps to pin down
details related to glacier motion and ice sheet changes. NASA also
works with data from its international partners to examine the
variations in flow rates of outlet glaciers, tracking the magnitude and
character of their acceleration. The information gained from all of
these projects is incorporated into ice sheet models designed to
predict how ice sheets will contribute to sea level rise in the next
one or two centuries. The modeling activity is an integrated effort
jointly carried out by NASA, the National Science Foundation, and the
Department of Energy (DOE). NSF also invests in basic observations and
process studies that are either directly coordinated with or are
complementary to NASA's activities, and DOE is building dynamical
models of Greenland and Antarctica, where future sea level rise
projections take advantage of observations provided by NASA and NSF.
Sustained observations of ocean elevation from satellites combined
with tide gauges will provide continuous measurements of sea level
rise. Current and planned observations of ice sheets and glaciers will
provide necessary insights into the physical processes that govern
their contributions to sea level rise. Ongoing and planned measurements
of ocean characteristics will continue to inform our assessments of
temperature and circulation characteristics, which affect the rate of
expansion. Continued observations of the movement of water throughout
the Earth will provide important insights into the characteristics of
land-water storage. All of these data are critical inputs used to
inform models and improve our understanding of the physics, carrying us
closer to a more complete and robust sea level rise prediction.
The net flow of heat into the climate system that I referred to
earlier is likely to affect the intensity and frequency of extreme
weather events in many parts of the globe. Our ability to predict
changes in the likelihood of these events is so far relatively limited
but intensive research continues in this important area. The most
recent report of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC 5)
states that it is likely that the global frequency of tropical cyclones
will either decrease or remain essentially unchanged owing to
greenhouse warming. These findings speak directly to tropical cyclones,
not other severe weather events. Projected decreases in tropical
cyclone frequency appear to be related to a weakening of the tropical
circulation associated with a decrease in the upward mass flux in
regions of deep convection under global warming. However, there is
lower confidence associated with these projections.
The predicted change in storm intensity is a different story-and
one we can speak to with greater confidence. Calculations indicate that
the mean maximum wind speed of tropical cyclones is likely to increase
by +2 to +11 percent globally due to the projected twenty-first-century
warming, although increases may not occur in all tropical regions. Two
studies referred to in the latest IPCC report project near-term
increases of North Atlantic hurricane intensity driven in large part by
projected reductions in tropospheric aerosols. The frequency of the
most intense Category 4 and 5 storms will more likely than not increase
by a substantially larger percentage in some basins, including the
North Atlantic. For the North Atlantic, an estimate of the time scale
of observed emergence of projected changes in intense tropical cyclone
frequency is longer than 60 years. This is because these are relatively
rare events and getting a statistically significant sample takes time.
NASA's Hurricane and Severe Storm Sentinel (HS3) mission is
delivering important information that will improve our ability to
predict the track and intensity of hurricanes as well as provide
information related to how hurricanes may intensify in a warming world.
HS3 uses two Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicles to fly around and
over storms developing in the Atlantic. The Global Hawks are capable of
extended missions, 24 hours or longer, and make multiple passes over
the developing storms, tracking the wind and convective processes that
lead to a storm's intensification or weakening. As sea levels rise,
enhanced understanding of hurricanes and their potential intensities
and tracks will become ever more important.
Rainfall rates associated with storms are likely to increase. The
projected magnitude is on the order of +20 percent within 100 km of the
tropical cyclone center. The increase in rainfall rates associated with
tropical cyclones is a consistent feature of the numerical models
projecting greenhouse warming as atmospheric moisture content in the
tropics and tropical cyclone moisture convergence is projected to
increase. This increase in rainfall may increase flooding potential
along the tracks of land-falling storms. Resulting changes to water
vapor pathways and the dynamical pattern of the troposphere may lead to
increased coastal rainfall and drying continental interiors. NASA's
Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) and the recently launched
Global Precipitation Mission (GPM) are providing detailed information
to help better understand relationships between rainfall and tropical
cyclone intensity, and how tropical cyclones and extreme weather events
can affect the U.S. and regions around the world.
There is low confidence in projected changes in tropical cyclone
genesis location, storm tracks, duration, and areas of impact. Existing
model projections do not show dramatic large-scale changes in these
features. However, the vulnerability of coastal regions to storm-surge
flooding is expected to increase with future sea-level rise and coastal
development, although this vulnerability will also depend on future
What does all of this mean for Florida? By the end of the century,
the intensity of hurricanes, including rainfall near the centers of
hurricanes, may increase. It is not currently possible to determine
whether the number of hurricanes impacting Florida will change. But
even if hurricane frequency and intensity do not change, rising sea
levels and coastal development will likely increase the impact of
hurricanes and other coastal storms on those coastal communities and
infrastructure. It is important to remember that it is the combination
of a steady increase in sea level combined with a projected increase in
rare but extreme weather events which represents the greatest threat to
Florida's coastal areas.
In closing, I emphasize that our ability to continuously observe
changes in the global climate system, including ice sheets, sea level,
and ocean characteristics, is critical to improving our understanding
of the physical processes at work. All the data collected by NASA are
made freely available to researchers and the public. Scientists in NASA
and elsewhere in the U.S. and internationally are studying changes in
the Earth's system as a matter of high priority in order to provide
you--the citizens and leaders of this country--with the best possible
information with which to prepare for the future. These sustained
measurements and the supporting scientific research are critically
important to improving our understanding of this planet and will allow
us to better predict the phenomena associated with global climate
Senator Nelson. Dr. Sellers, I think it is----
Senator Nelson. I think it is important to point out that
Dr. Sellers? testimony is not modeling, is not a forecast, it
is a measurement. What he has stated, in fact, has occurred.
And so those who deny climate change and sea level rise, here
is the proof right here.
Now, in one projection that he had toward the year 2100,
three feet? Does everybody here know what that would do to the
State of Florida and the 75 percent of the state's population
that is along the coast? And that is less than a century away.
And it doesn't happen all at once in the year 2100. It is
happening right now.
Dr. Sellers, thank you very, very much.
Mr. Sellers. Thank you.
Senator Nelson. OK. Commissioner Jacobs, please.
STATEMENT OF KRISTIN JACOBS, COUNTY COMMISSIONER, BROWARD
COUNTY, FLORIDA; MEMBER, WHITE HOUSE TASK FORCE ON CLIMATE
PREPAREDNESS AND RESILIENCE
Ms. Jacobs. Well, Senator, I have to first thank you so
much for convening this hearing today. As we have heard, the
issues facing South Florida are huge and they are long-term,
and this means that we need to act now.
As you know, here in South Florida we are close to making
the community understand that this isn't magic that we are
talking about, this is science. And science is predictable, and
there are measures that we can take to address it.
During my years as a Broward County commissioner, I devoted
a great deal of time and effort and passion to the issue of
climate change. And the more that I learned, the more that I
realized that these issues weren't just affecting Broward
County; in fact, it was affecting our sister counties, Miami-
Dade, Palm Beach, and Monroe Counties. We were all pretty much
in the same situation. We were all addressing climate change,
perhaps a little bit differently from one another.
And it drew our attention to the fact that the scale of
this problem facing us meant that we were going to have to
learn to work together, we were going to have to find a way to
come together across those human-imposed boundaries of our
communities, because of course water and hurricanes and other
natural phenomena don't respect these boundaries, and that we
needed to also do this across party lines, which is, I think,
one of the most significant things about what the four counties
did in coming together and signing a historic compact. This
fall will make five years since that compact was signed. We are
still the only counties in the Nation to have come together in
such a way.
And I think the issue of party is particularly important
when you consider that when the saltwater has overtopped your
seawall and filled up your swimming pool or your sewers are
backing up into your home, do you really care what party it is
that the person is from who answers the phone? No, we don't, we
want answers. And we expect our government to be acting
So I am thrilled to have this panel and this opportunity to
talk about what is happening to the 5.5 million residents of
the four counties and these new heights of cooperation that we
have begun and embracing this regional approach to resiliency.
I would first like to begin with some of what we have heard
today, the doom and gloom that is facing the region. But mostly
what I would like to end up with is to talk about why I believe
there is reason for calm optimism, because it isn't all bad
The sobering truth, though, is that Broward County and the
South Florida region are facing significant vulnerabilities. As
we have already heard this morning, they go from coastal and
inland flooding, ``inland'' being an operative word. We talk a
lot about coastal flooding, but it is important to understand
what happens on the coast affects areas inland, in many cases
even greater than what we may see on the coast--storm surge,
saltwater contamination of our drinking water supplies is
greatly threatened, the impacts to our wastewater systems was
spoken of a little bit earlier, beach erosion, and the threats
to the public and private property infrastructure alone.
We are also going to be experiencing hotter temperatures,
public health challenges, ocean acidification, and additional
stresses to the Everglades. Many of these impacts will affect
critical resources, community sustainability, and the very
heart of our economic engine, that of tourism.
Sea level rise is just one result of climate change, but
the challenges we are facing from this one issue paint a
daunting picture. To give you an idea of the scope of the issue
for Palm Beach, Broward, and Monroe Counties, at just one foot
of sea level rise, up to $4 billion of taxable property will be
inundated with seawater. And this figure does not include
Miami-Dade County. At three feet, that figure rises to $31
Keep in mind that a significant percentage of our sewer
systems, as we have talked about, is gravity-fed. That means
waste literally rolls downhill. And without the infrastructure
for pumps to move it, we have some huge costs ahead of us.
Sea level rise also affects our drinking water. As
saltwater migrates inland into the freshwater aquifer, we will
lose our freshwater wells. In Broward County alone, that
saltwater intrusion line continues to march ever inland. In the
City of Fort Lauderdale, it is about six miles in, to give you
an idea. Everything on the other side of that saltwater line,
all those water wells have been lost.
As we have talked about this issue across the four
counties, it is important to understand that in Broward County
there are 28 water utilities. So when you lose your wells, you
have to go to the next municipality, which may not be able to
deliver water to your region.
So we know and we have heard a lot today about all of the
different problems facing us as a community, but what I wanted
to spend some time today to talk to you about was what is
happening as a part of the compact.
Through the counties agreeing to come together, we adopted
110 specific recommendations on climate change. Unprecedented
that you would take these very controversial issues, 110
recommendations, and have 4 county governments adopt them.
These recommendations spanned seven different topics, from
energy, water, transportation, sustainable communities, natural
systems, agriculture, and outreach and public policy.
So with the Climate Action Plan, we understood that within
the four counties there are more than 100 cities, that they all
needed to address this in their own ways. But we also
understood very pragmatically that when we pull together in the
same direction, we could share not only our financial resources
but our staff resources as well.
The other interesting point about moving together in the
same direction is the counties and the cities have learned how
to not compete with one another. And I would use Miami Beach as
an example, where you had multiple counties going after a grant
who all decided to stand back, instead support one city in
their bid for a grant, which they were awarded. In the past, we
might all have had our hands out, all fighting over that
limited pot of dollars. We have rightly understood that working
together really will advance the cause of solutions for the
And while all of this gives us a great reason to celebrate
success--and I won't go into all the different ways in which we
have made changes within our communities--we couldn't have
gotten here if it weren't for our Federal partners.
The Federal partners, particularly between NOAA and USGS,
helped the four counties baseline our science, which sounds
like an easy task until you get four counties' worth of
scientists in the room who are all pretty married to their
projections. It took us about a year to get us all on the same
page. But that helped us understand how we could then go in and
make other changes that would pull us in the same direction and
also help us to speak with one voice.
The other Federal agencies--it isn't just USGS and NOAA,
but the Department of Energy, the Army Corps, the Federal
Highway Administration all have given us their resources.
We look forward to a time where the Federal Government, who
is already spending money in our communities and throughout
this country, will start to tie climate change resiliency--
start to tie funding to the communities' ability to recognize
and prioritize where their vulnerabilities are. Those dollars
that are already being spent can be spent more wisely. And
while we do need huge infusions of new cash, we know that using
the dollars that we have now more wisely will benefit us all.
Our President, through the creation of this task force, the
Climate Preparedness and Resilience Task Force, has drawn
together governors, mayors, and local commissioners from all
over the country to craft recommendations so that the Federal
Government can be even more responsive to us. We are so
impressed and proud of what our President is doing in rightly
understanding the challenges and that local governments are
already in the trenches moving us forward.
But, Senator Nelson, it is truly a pleasure to be here with
you today to understand that it isn't just our President that
understands these pressures and how the Federal Government can
come and be a resource to us, but you, in holding this
committee today, have understood, as my mother always said,
that if you are not at the table, you are on the menu.
Ms. Jacobs. And so today I just have to tell you how much
we appreciate sitting at your table today to be able to be part
of the solution and also to help guide in any way that you need
us to get your back and making sure that the rest of the Senate
and the U.S. House of Representatives understand this important
issue not just to South Florida but the entire United States.
[The prepared statement of Ms. Jacobs follows:]
Prepared Statement of Kristin Jacobs, County Commissioner, Broward
County, Florida; Member, White House Task Force on Climate
Preparedness and Resilience
Good Morning Mr. Chairman,
I would like to personally thank you for your leadership and for
convening this hearing today in South Florida.
As you know, Florida, and especially South Florida, is vulnerable
to the effects of Climate Change.
During my public service as a Broward County Commissioner, I have
devoted a great amount of effort--and passion--to addressing Climate
Change. And the more I learned, the more I realized that the issues
facing my county were the same issues facing my sister counties here in
South Florida. The scale of the need for comprehensive responses and
pragmatic solutions meant that we were going to have to think like
Mother Nature does: regionally, holistically, and long term. From that
idea began a four-county effort committed to working across the human-
imposed boundaries of cities and counties. We also faced the
significant journey of working beyond party lines. After all, when
saltwater has overtopped the seawall and filled your swimming pool, or
sewer water is backing up in your house, do you care which party the
person you call for answers belongs?
I am thrilled to be before this esteemed panel today to share with
you the exciting ways our super region, one which represents 5.5
million people has worked together to reach new heights of coordination
and cooperation by embracing a regional approach to resiliency.
I would first like to begin with what some might term as the ``doom
and gloom'' outlook we are facing, and then share with you why I
believe there is good reason for calm optimism.
The sobering truth is that Broward County and the South Florida
region are facing significant vulnerabilities. They include:
Coastal and inland flooding
Saltwater contamination of drinking water supplies
Impacts to water supply and wastewater systems
Threats to public and private property and infrastructure.
We will also experience:
Public health challenges
Ocean acidification and warming with impacts to coral reefs
Additional stresses on the Everglades.
Many of these impacts will affect critical resources, community
sustainability, and the heart of our economic engine--tourism.
Sea level rise is just one result of Climate Change, but the
challenges we are facing from this one issue alone paint a daunting
picture. To give you an idea of the scope of the issue for Palm Beach,
Broward, and Monroe counties, at just one foot of sea level rise up to
$4 billion of taxable property will be inundated with seawater. That
number does not even include Miami-Dade County. At three feet, that
figure rises to $31 billion. Keep in mind that a significant percentage
of our sewer systems are gravity-fed, meaning that waste literally
rolls downhill. These figures do not take into account the inland
impacts that would take hold when these non-pump-operated systems begin
Sea level rise also affects our drinkable water, as salt water
migrates inland into the fresh water aquifer; we lose our fresh water
wells. The salt water intrusion line in Broward County has been
creeping steadily west. As that salt water intrusion line marches ever
westward and we lose more and more wells, local governments will have
to seek water from new sources. Local governments may look to the
nearest utility, but there is no guarantee the infrastructure required
to provide water to so many new customers will exist. This situation
will pose great difficulty for local governments.
It is especially daunting for Broward County, when you consider
that unlike Miami-Dade County, which has a large water utility, Broward
has 28 separate individually governed water utilities supplying 31
cities. The cost of reaching inland to compensate for loss of wells in
the coastal zone is estimated to be upwards of $350 million in Broward
Restoring the Everglades must remain a high priority at all levels
of government, not only for the value of maintaining a unique
ecosystem, but also because restored freshwater flow through the
Everglades system will help protect drinking water supplies threatened
by sea level rise.
Sea level rise also increases the severity of flooding and makes
drainage more expensive. Broward County consists of 1,800 linear miles
of canals and myriad retention lakes all connected and designed to keep
us dry. Most people do not know that the urbanized area of Broward
accounts for only one-third of the actual acreage in our county. The
other two-thirds are held in conservation land, our beautiful and one-
of-a-kind Everglades. The Everglades has a higher elevation than the
urbanized area and the cost of pumping and maintaining water levels
continues to escalate.
Here are few other examples from the region.
Fort Lauderdale recently estimated that it might cost $1 billion to
upgrade the city's storm water system in the face of rising sea levels
and increased flooding. Miami Beach pegged its storm water upgrades at
$400 million. Pumps to replace gravity water control structures are
estimated at $50 million each. This doesn't speak to the improvements
needed within associated drainage basins, or improvements to roadways
and other infrastructure. There's no question that these are large
numbers. These examples show that these issues are not limited to just
one city or county.
Now the reasons for my optimism.
In 2009 Broward, Palm Beach, Miami-Dade and Monroe Counties came
together to form the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact.
I am proud to say that we have been able to work together on an
agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to adapt to climate
change impacts we are already living with.
While we have been recognized both nationally and internationally
as a leading example of effective local climate action, I am most proud
of the work the staff of each county has done in putting together our
Regional Climate Action Plan covering 110 specific recommendations for
resiliency divided into seven categories:
4. Sustainable Communities
5. Natural Systems
7. Outreach and Public Policy
While the Regional Climate Action Plan leaves it up the individual
counties and cities to implement the plan in the ways which works best
for them, we are finding that in practice, it makes fiscal and
practical sense to work together. It is this spirit of cooperation, the
ability to share and learn from each other, which has led to
accelerated action throughout our region.
Examples of what we have seen so far include:
Incorporation of climate change considerations into county
comprehensive plans and other planning documents,
Efforts to advance a regional surface water reservoir
providing water supply benefits for communities in Palm Beach,
Broward and Miami-Dade counties by improving surface water
storage, diversion of storm water runoff and aquifer recharge.
The formation of a coastal resilience work group to expand
the use of coral reefs, mangroves, dunes and other living
shoreline projects. When integrated with urban systems, these
provide optimum shoreline protection, habitat preservation, or
And while all of this gives us great reason to celebrate success,
the truth is, we could not have done it without our Federal partners.
Agencies like NOAA and USGS helped the four counties
baseline our projections for how high the sea will rise and by
when so we are all working from the same set of assumptions.
A grant from NOAA is enabling Broward County, the South
Florida Regional Planning Council and the City of Fort
Lauderdale to explore the use of ``Adaptation Action Areas.'' A
recent innovation in Florida law that allows communities to
identify climate-vulnerable areas and prioritize where
adaptation investments should go first.
The Regional Climate Action Plan mitigation priorities
include mitigation and programs like the Go Solar Florida
program which is funded by a U.S. Department of Energy Grant.
This program makes installing rooftop solar easier and more
affordable for homeowners.
Broward and Miami-Dade counties have worked with the U.S.
Geological Survey to create advanced hydrologic models that
look at the interaction between sea level rise, stormwater and
potable water supply.
Compact Partners are benefiting from a Federal Highway
Administration grant to assess the vulnerability of
transportation infrastructure to climate change.
Local governments and regional initiatives like the Compact play a
significant role in supporting regional decision making with technical
support, expertise, and financial assistance from the Federal
Although the local level is where much of the needed adaptation to
climate impacts will happen, we are still in great need of policies at
the state, Federal and international levels that reduce carbon
pollution and accelerate the transition to a clean energy economy.
I have the personal honor and privilege of serving on President
Obama's State, Local and Tribal Leaders Task Force on Climate
Preparedness and Resilience. I remain immensely impressed with our
President's consistent recognition that local governments are already
in the trenches dealing with the impacts of climate change and that we
have common sense solutions to offer.
Our President, through the creation of this Task Force, has drawn
together governors, mayors and county commissioners from all over the
country to craft recommendations to help the Federal Government
understand exactly what they what we need in order to become prepared
for and resilient to the effects of a changing climate, whether its
drought, or flood, or fire or hurricanes or mudslides.
Senators, I must tell you that it is not only impressive that our
President is listening and reaching out to us, but so too, are you. You
have rightly recognized that, as my mom used to quip, ``If you're not
at the table, you're on the menu.''
On behalf of the entire Broward County Commission and our sister
Counties, Miami-Dade, Palm Beach and Monroe, and more than 100 cities
in the South Florida region, I thank you for the opportunity to sit at
your table today and share my insights.
[GRAPHICS NOT AVAILABLE IN TIFF FORMAT]
Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact
WHEREAS, there is consensus among the world's leading scientists
that global climate change is among the most significant problems
facing the world today; and
WHEREAS, Florida is considered one of the most vulnerable areas in
the country to the consequences of climate change with Southeast
Florida on the front line to experience the impacts of climate change,
especially sea level rise; and
WHEREAS, Broward, Miami-Dade, Palm Beach and Monroe Counties,
herein the four counties that constitute the Southeast Florida Region,
share in common a strong quality of life rooted in the region's rich
cultural heritage, vigorous economy, and environmental resources of
global significance; and
WHEREAS, the aforementioned four counties of Southeast Florida,
which represent approximately 30 percent of the population of the State
of Florida, are physically linked one to the other by the Atlantic
Ocean coastline and share some of the world's most renowned natural
resources such as the Everglades, our unique coral reefs, beautiful
beaches, and fragile Keys ecosystem; and
WHEREAS, the four counties of Southeast Florida and their
respective populations, totaling more than five million residents, are
expected to share in disproportionately high risks associated with
climate change due to low land elevations, rising sea level
projections, and anticipated increases in tropical storm events; and
WHEREAS, rising sea levels could limit the effectiveness of
critical drainage infrastructure, endanger beaches, and coastal natural
resources and increase incidents of saltwater intrusion on the Biscayne
Aquifer--putting at risk the drinking water supply for the entire
population of Southeast Florida; and
WHEREAS, local governments, and the region as a whole, must give
significant consideration to adaptation strategies designed to protect
public infrastructure, property, water resources, natural areas and
native species, and basic quality of life; and
WHEREAS, the aforementioned four counties of Southeast Florida
account for a combined Gross Domestic Product of more than $2.5 billion
annually and more than 37 percent of statewide economic output; and
WHEREAS, while the four counties of Southeast Florida have
independently taken steps to address global climate change, all parties
recognize that coordinated and collective action on this, the defining
issue for Southeast Florida in the 21st Century, will best serve the
citizens of the region;
NOW THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE BOARDS OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS
OF THE FOUR COUNTIES OF SOUTHEAST FLORIDA:
SECTION 1: That each county shall work in close collaboration with
the aforementioned counties of Southeast Florida party to this compact
to develop a joint policy position urging the United States Congress to
pass legislation that recognizes the unique vulnerabilities of
Southeast Florida to the impacts of climate change and to further a
joint policy position that includes specific recommendations regarding
the allocation of Federal climate change funding based on vulnerability
to climate change impacts. Such recommendations might include
designation of areas of Southeast Florida as uniquely vulnerable and of
Federal interest for the purpose of securing enhanced levels of Federal
participation in regional adaptation projects.
SECTION 2: That each county shall work in close collaboration with
the other counties party to this compact to develop additional
legislative policy statements relating to global climate change and
future legislation to be considered by the Congress of the United
States for transmittal to the Congressional Delegation representing, in
part or in whole, districts within the area covered by this compact.
SECTION 3: That each county shall work in close collaboration with
other counties party to this compact in developing joint position
statements on proposed State legislation and energy/climate policies
including but not limited to issues such as the region's energy and
climate security and a renewable energy portfolio standard that defines
renewable energy sources as wind, solar, geothermal, biomass, landfill
gas, qualified hydropower, and marine and hydrokinetic energy, and also
including nuclear energy, and to collaborate on other emerging energy/
climate issues that may be considered by the 2010 Florida Legislature
for transmittal to the Legislative Delegation representing, in part or
in whole, districts within the area covered by this compact.
SECTION 4: That each county shall work with other counties party to
this compact in developing joint position statements for future State
legislation that may be considered by the Florida Legislature for
transmittal to the Legislative Delegation representing, in part or in
whole, districts within the area covered by this compact.
SECTION 5: That each county shall commit appropriate staff
resources and expertise, within budget constraints, to participate in a
Regional Climate Team with other counties party to this compact toward
the development of a Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Action
SECTION 6: That each county shall work with other counties party to
this compact in developing a Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change
Action Plan, understanding that no county will work at cross-purposes
with the other counties. The Action Plan could, at a minimum, include
the following components:
A baseline of greenhouse gas emissions for Southeast
Strategies for coordinated emission reductions throughout
the built environment to include the use of energy efficiency,
energy conservation, and the use of demand-side renewable
Strategies for coordinated emission reductions from the
transportation sector to include increased reliance on public
transit, emerging vehicle technologies, and advanced biofuels;
Strategies for coordinated emission reductions resulting
from changes in local and regional land use;
Strategies for the coordinated regional preparation for and
adaptation to a rapidly changing global environment based upon
regional mapping of projected sea-level rise and any resulting
amplification of localized impacts of tropical cyclone events.
Such strategies shall incorporate climate preparation concerns
for the regional economy, regional infrastructure and the built
environment, social and cultural needs, and natural systems
within the four counties party to this compact.
SECTION 7: That each county shall commit to participating with
other counties party to this compact in hosting the Second Southeast
Florida Regional Climate Change Summit in October, 2010.
[GRAPHICS NOT AVAILABLE IN TIFF FORMAT]
SOUTHEAST FLORIDA REGIONAL CLIMATE CHANGE COMPACT COUNTIES
2014 FEDERAL ENERGY AND CLIMATE LEGISLATIVE PROGRAM
Southeast Florida is one of the most vulnerable areas in the
country to climate change and sea level rise. Recognizing their shared
challenges, Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade and Monroe counties
(Compact counties) adopted the Southeast Florida Regional Climate
Change Compact (Compact) in 2010. The Compact includes a commitment to
develop and advocate for joint state and Federal legislative policies.
Therefore, the Compact counties have adopted a Federal Energy and
Climate Legislative Program each year since 2011.
The following Federal policies and priorities form the Southeast
Florida Regional Climate Change Compact Counties 2014 Federal Energy
and Climate Legislative Program:
SUPPORT--the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2013
(WRRDA) and specific support for provisions:
Authorizing Everglades restoration projects, either by name
or by reference to those projects for which Chief's Reports
have been completed.
Creating a procedure for later authorization of projects
under review at the time of passage of the Act, such as the
Central Everglades Planning Project.
Allowing non-federal sponsors to receive reimbursement or
in-kind credit for project expenditures incurred before the
execution of a Project Partnership Agreement with the Army
Corps of Engineers.
Creating an evaluation procedure for Federal shore
protection projects nearing the end of their 50-year Federal
authorization and allowing the Assistant Secretary of the Army
to extend the authorization for an additional 15 years.
Supporting the potential use of nonstructural alternatives,
such as dunes, wetlands, marshes, reefs, mangroves, and other
Creating a Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation
SUPPORT--federal legislation that would create and fund a national
infrastructure bank or other new infrastructure funding source to
finance projects needed by state and local governments to adapt to
climate impacts and address aging infrastructure. Emphasis should be
placed on investments in water management, water supply,
transportation, and other projects that make urban infrastructure more
resilient to extreme weather events and rising sea levels.
SUPPORT--legislation that creates incentives for the consideration
of climate impacts, including sea level rise, in Federal aid for
transportation, water, and other infrastructure projects.
SUPPORT--the use of emissions reduction and climate adaptation
performance measures and standards to evaluate infrastructure
investments, including transportation and water projects.
SUPPORT--federal programs that shift priorities toward public
transit and non-motorized travel, including reinvestment in existing
infrastructure and communities, support for public transportation and
transit-oriented development, and congestion management strategies
other than new road building.
Adaptation and Resilience
SUPPORT--Congressional recognition of adaptation as a critical
climate change issue in the development of all legislation and
SUPPORT--specific recognition in Federal legislation of land use
designations made by local governments for the purposes of building
community resilience, such as the Adaptation Action Areas (AAAs)
defined in Chapter 163, Florida Statutes, and the development of
regulations that give priority consideration to local land use
designations for climate-resilient investments.
SUPPORT--federal grants, technical support, and other services to
aid community planning that incorporates sustainability and climate
SUPPORT--reform of the Stafford Act to allow greater flexibility in
disaster reconstruction efforts to ensure that properties and
infrastructure are not merely rebuilt to their previous condition, but
to higher, more resilient standards (where appropriate).
SUPPORT--funding for weatherization programs provided by the U.S.
Department of Energy to harden buildings against windstorm impacts.
SUPPORT--continued funding for the Federal Emergency Management
Administration's (FEMA) natural hazard mitigation programs to include
mitigation for hazards associated with climate change impacts.
SUPPORT--the continued eligibility of funding for activities to
adapt to climate change and extreme weather events under the Federal-
Aid and Federal Lands Highway programs, including vulnerability/risk
assessments, highway project development, environmental review and
design, construction of projects or features to protect existing
assets, and evaluation of life cycle costs.
Program Cuts and Restrictions
OPPOSE--reduction in funding for critically important conservation,
public health, and environmental protection efforts that reduce carbon
emissions, support climate preparedness, build resilience to extreme
weather, and protect the Nation's natural resources.
Climate and Energy Research
SUPPORT--creation of a National Climate Service within the National
Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) as a means of providing
climate-related science and technical products needed by state and
local governments to prepare for the potential impacts of global
SUPPORT--continued funding for the U.S. Global Climate Change
Research Program and the completion of its National Climate Assessment
process currently underway under the auspices of the U.S. Global Change
Research Act of 1990.
SUPPORT--funding to ensure that the Joint Polar Satellite System
(JPSS) is launched as quickly as possible.
SUPPORT--funding for a ``gap-filling'' weather satellite to provide
critical data between the end of the current polar satellite's lifetime
and the launch of the next-generation Joint Polar Satellite System.
SUPPORT--funding for advanced energy research programs.
Energy and Emissions
SUPPORT--reauthorization of and renewed funding for the Department
of Energy's Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG)
SUPPORT--continued funding for the U.S. Department of Energy to
support the Southeast Florida Clean Cities Coalition and funding for
implementation of projects developed under the Clean Cities Community
Readiness and Planning for Plug-in Electric Vehicles and Charging
Infrastructure, Funding Opportunity Number, DE-FOA-0000451 (Drive
Electric Florida & US-1 Corridor Pilot Project).
SUPPORT--continued funding for the U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency to support the Southeast Diesel Collaborative and the National
Clean Diesel Funding Assistance Program.
Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE)
SUPPORT--federal legislation that supports local Property Assessed
Clean Energy (PACE) programs, specifically by removing barriers to PACE
and similar programs for residential properties.
Oil Exploration and Drilling
OPPOSE--oil exploration and drilling in Federal waters on Florida's
Outer Continental Shelf.
SUPPORT--the Everglades for the Next Generation Act, which would
expedite implementation of projects related to the Comprehensive
Everglades Restoration Plan.
SUPPORT--continued focus on Everglades restoration as an essential
component of protecting regional water supply and building regional
SUPPORT--renewal of tax incentives for renewable energy production.
SUPPORT--the elimination of Federal subsidies for oil and gas
SUPPORT--renewal of the recently-expired Section 179D of the
Internal Revenue Code, which allows deductions for energy efficiency
improvements in commercial buildings, and an increase in the per-
square-foot value of the deduction from the previous value of $1.80.
SUPPORT--legislation that affirms equal treatment of pretax
spending programs for transit and parking and makes future increases in
the transit program maximums automatic (as the parking maximum
increases already are).
SUPPORT--amending the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) to
allow multi-peril coverage from a national catastrophic insurance fund.
[GRAPHICS NOT AVAILABLE IN TIFF FORMAT]
[GRAPHICS NOT AVAILABLE IN TIFF FORMAT]
Commissioner Jacobs also submitted with her prepared statement
Southeast Florida Climate Change Regional Compact, ``A Region Responds
to a Changing Climate: Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change
Compact Counties Regional Climate Action Plan,'' October 12.
The report can be found at http://
Senator Nelson. Well, Commissioner, I want to thank you.
What you all are doing in South Florida, bringing together all
these governments, I mean, it sounds like you must be Merlin
the Magician to get everybody together and then to support a
grant application of one jurisdiction. So thank you, thank you,
I want you to know that I come to the table not only as
someone who has seen Florida grow over the years as a fifth
generation Floridian, with my family having come to Florida 185
years ago in 1829, but also because of that experience that Dr.
Sellers mentioned. When you look out the window of a spacecraft
and look back at our home, it is so beautiful, it is so
colorful, it is so alive, it is so creative, and yet it looks
If we had a lot of time, Dr. Sellers and I could tell you
what you can see from space with the naked eye. Coming across
the Amazon region, across Brazil, you could actually see the
effects of the destruction of the rainforest because you could
see the color contrast. And then you could look to the east, to
the mouth of the Amazon, and you could see the siltation, which
is natural, but the siltation for hundreds of miles out into
the Atlantic because of the destruction of the trees upriver.
On our flight, we could see--I flew a few years before Dr.
Sellers--we saw a volcano erupt in Central America, and the
westerly winds were carrying the smoke way out into the
Pacific. You could see, looking back to the north, the horizon
as we came across southern India. You could see the Himalayas
looked like they rose to the heavens.
I became more of an environmentalist having had that
perspective. And what I concluded from that experience was that
I wanted to be a better steward of what the good Lord has given
us. And yet, we continue to mess it up.
OK, Dr. Bloetscher, now, you are a scientist right here in
our State university system at Florida Atlantic.
Mr. Bloetscher. That is right.
Senator Nelson. I want you to share with us what you have
STATEMENT OF FREDERICK BLOETSCHER, ASSOCIATE
PROFESSOR, DEPARTMENT OF CIVIL, ENVIRONMENTAL,
AND GEOMATICS ENGINEERING, FLORIDA ATLANTIC UNIVERSITY
Mr. Bloetscher. Well, I want to thank you very much, and
distinguished guests, for holding this hearing and allowing me
to speak at it.
As the other speakers have noted, South Florida is
experiencing climate change impacts in primarily sea level
rise, but we see a lot of other impacts that are potentially
there. But I am going to focus on the sea level rise because it
is the one that is permanent. Storms and things like that are
temporal in nature.
But we have seen over the last--since 1930, we have seen a
steady increase in sea level rise. And keep in mind that most
of the drainage system for South Florida was based on 1930s sea
level. When we built the drainage systems here over the next 30
years, what we did was we went as far west as we possibly
could, drained by gravity. That is why the dikes are out there
off of 27, with the assumption that it would drain by gravity
to the ocean. Sea level rise kind of frustrates that initial
goal, and as a result we see more frequent flooding not only on
the coast but inland, because inland doesn't discharge as
We have done some modeling. We have used the NASA
satellites, we have used USGS's satellites, we have used NOAA's
satellites. And we have come up with some methodologies to
convert that to very high-resolution LIDAR, plus or minus six
inches, because inches matter in South Florida.
And what we have been able to determine is areas where we
are likely to see flooding by matching that up with groundwater
levels, which increase as you go west, while typography goes
down as you go west. And as a result, we see a lot of area west
of I-95, out toward the dike, that we are going to see a lot
more frequent flooding. There is less soil capacity, so even
smaller rainstorms will cause it to flood.
Those are problems that we are going to have to address as
time goes on. Like I said, we have underestimated that.
So what can we do? And the answer, to us, is adaptation.
You have already heard from Ms. Jacobs about the counties
getting together. Local governments have done some things. Five
of the universities in the Florida university system have
gotten together. We have created the Florida Climate Institute.
FAU is one of the partners, and FAU's focus has been adaptation
What we look at is, we are able to take apart
municipalities, and we have looked specifically at Miami Beach,
Miami-Dade County, the Keys, Broward County in some areas, and
various other places up into Palm Beach County, and we can
identify those areas that are likely vulnerable.
And then we have created some toolboxes of concepts that
might work. You are going to see a lot more pumping of
stormwater. I think that is an obvious one.
But we are also going to see that some of our coastal
salinity structures need to move a lot farther east. If you go
up to Dania Beach and Hollywood, the salinity structures are,
you know, 10 miles inland. It creates that saltwater intrusion
problem that was referenced. We are going to have to change
that. There are some in Miami-Dade County that are same way.
Senator Nelson. What is a salinity structure?
Mr. Bloetscher. They are basically gates that are put on
the canals to keep saltwater from migrating inland, and then it
keeps the freshwater behind it. And so the idea is it is a
control structure to control the elevation of water.
The problem is, if you put them too far inland, they are
actually on the back side of the ridge. And the ridge in South
Florida, Henry Flagler, when he built the railroads here, a
very smart man, built the railroads on the ridge, the high
point, which is about two miles off the coast. If you have a
salinity structure that is 10 miles inland, you have a lot of,
you know, downslope. And as a result, the water levels back
there can't be held as high, and it leads to the saltwater
intrusion problem, amongst others.
So we have looked at that. What we see when we start doing
this modeling is the roadways are the first things to flood
everywhere. And the Mayor has referenced that, and we saw the
videos that were going on behind you. You saw a lot of flooding
there. And they are the low areas, but it is also where the
water and the sewer and the electric and transportation, all
the things that we require to live exist in those roadways.
And we are going to see municipalities come up with levels
of service, trying to define what is the point at which we are
going to try to build to what are the elevations to keep
Now, you have heard a lot of fairly negative news, but I am
fairly confident that there are solutions to this problem. We
have come up with this toolbox, but there are ideas, there is
willingness to do that. There is a lot of planning that is
required. It is not an immediate thing; it is a slow, steady
creep of sea level rise going up, which allows us to buy some
time to do the appropriate planning, not spend money twice for
the same thing, build incrementally into those strategies that
will help us protect the land that we have and our economy.
I look at the risk issue, and I talk about this a lot. The
risk issue is there are 5.7 million people in Southeast
Florida, there is almost four trillion dollars' worth of
property that is down here, and there is almost $300 billion a
year in an economy. That is a significant piece of Florida. It
is something that is worth protecting.
So we are going to have to coordinate our efforts. The
climate compact was one good way to do that. One government
can't do it. You are going to see a lot of local level
decisionmaking, but they have to work together, because if one
person does it and the other municipality doesn't, it doesn't
really help the larger situation.
What is needed? Planning. We are going to have to
investigate some technologies that we haven't done, like
infiltration trenches to keep road levels low. We have never
tried that in Florida. There are some investigations and some
testing and research that needs to be done there.
Senator Nelson. What is an infiltration trench?
Mr. Bloetscher. It is a concept that is used for water
supply in the Midwest. And the idea is that you create a trench
and you allow water to flow into it, the groundwater to flow
into it, and then you pump it offsite.
They use that in the Midwest along, like, the Ohio River,
for example. The Ohio River has a lot of pollutants and things
in it. It is very turbid much of the year. And so the idea is
they allow the water to flow through the soil into the
infiltration trench, and then they pull it off.
We do exfiltration, so we have pipes that are perforated,
and water then moves into the soil. The problem is, as sea
level rise goes up, the water doesn't go into the soil. But we
could repurpose a lot of that if we do some testing and
determine how well that would work. And then we could actually
pump those things going backward, and it would pull water into
those pipes that are perforated.
The idea there being is that along those roadways,
especially critical roadways, we could lower the water table
along the roadway. It would protect the road base, it would
protect the sewers, make the stormwater system work better. But
there is an investment in significant dollars that are there.
And in all of the changes that we have here, there is going
to be significant dollars and a much more managed system than
we have now. But if you look at the value of the economy and
the property and what goes on here, there are tools. We do need
state, Federal partners to participate.
You know, one of the issues that is there is, so when you
do that infiltration trench, where does that water go? It is
going to have nutrients in it, things like that, so dumping it
into Biscayne Bay or offshore is probably not the right answer.
So there is some technology that needs to be investigated. We
need to see if we can use some of that water for water supply,
but there is some testing to figure out what it is going to
take to clean that up.
So we need time. We have some time, but we need to take
some steps to start investigating some of these solutions so
that when it is time to implement them they are there.
Senator Nelson. Thank you, Professor.
Mr. Bloetscher. Thank you very much.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Bloetscher follows:]
Prepared Statement of Frederick Bloetscher, Associate Professor,
Department of Civil, Environmental, and Geomatics Engineering, Florida
Senator Nelson and Distinguished Guests,
There has been significant discussion about the potential impacts
of climate change on the world: more intense rainfall events, more
severe thunderstorms and tropical cyclones, droughts, loss of glacial
ice and storage, increased demand for crop irrigation. However for much
of the State of Florida, and respectfully for much of the coastal
United States east of the Rio Grande River, the climate issue that is
most likely to create significant risk to health and economic activity
is sea-level rise. Data gathered by NOAA from multiple sites indicates
that sea level rise is occurring, and has been for over 100 years (see
Figure 1). Similar charts exist across the southeastern U.S. and Gulf
The impact of climate change on Florida is two-fold--Florida often
is water-supply limited as topography limits the ability to store
excess precipitation for water use during the dry periods and sea level
rise will exacerbate local flooding. The highly engineered stormwater
drainage system of canals and control structures has effectively
enabled management of water tables and saltwater intrusion by gravity.
The advent of sea-level rise will present new challenges, because the
water table is currently maintained at the highest possible levels to
counter saltwater intrusion, while limiting flood risk in southeast
Florida's low-lying terrain and providing for water supplies. As sea
level rises, the water will not flow by gravity, which disrupts that
balance struck between flood risk and water supply availability in the
Figure 1. Sea Level Rise in Miami Beach, 1930-1980
Occasional flooding is not new to Florida, but the increasing
frequency we currently experience is related to sea level rise, not
just along the coast, but for large expanses of developed property
inland due to topography and groundwater levels. As a result, the
challenge for water managers in the state, especially in southeast
Florida, is to control the groundwater table, because control of the
water table is essential to prevent flooding of the low terrain.
The issue is not lost on local governments in south Florida nor on
the educational institutions in the area. Florida Universities are
playing in helping this region and the State to both understand the
State of the art in the science of sea level rise and other climate
related changes and to identify ways in which we can mitigate, respond
to and adapt to these changes. My university, Florida Atlantic
University, is located in this vulnerable part of the State has been
proactive in partnership with the Four County Compact in addressing
these issues and we have now joined with FIU and five other
Universities in the State to form the Florida Climate Institute, a
consortium working with state and Federal agencies to address the
multiple challenges and opportunities facing this State. FAU has been
proactive in developing tools to evaluate risk and identify adaptation
strategies to protect local and regional infrastructure and property.
I illustrate this approach by looking at our recent study of the
Impact of Sea level Rise on Urban Infrastructure which I have submitted
as a separate document. Our efforts have included using high resolution
NOAA data to map topography at the +/-6 inch level, combined that
topography with mapping of infrastructure and groundwater, to identify
vulnerable areas throughout Broward, Miami-Dade and Monroe Counties, as
well as initiated projects in Palm Beach County and other coastal
regions throughout the state. By identifying vulnerability based on sea
level changes, the timing and tools for adaptation can be designed and
funded to insure a ``no-regrets'' strategy that neither accelerates nor
delays infrastructure beyond its need.
We have all heard the discussion an addition rise in sea level of
an estimated two to three feet is anticipated by 2100; some scientists
think it will be more. But sea level rise is a slow, albeit permanent
change to our environment. The slow part allows us to make informed
decisions about adaptation strategies that may prove useful in the long
term as well as the short term. Of prime importance is the need to plan
for these needs 50 or more years out so that we do not increase our
exposure to risk. Keeping development out of low lying areas,
redeveloping pumping and piping systems with change in mind and
reserving areas where major efforts will need to be undertaken, is
important to the public interest and will affect private business,
tourism and homeowners. Sea level rise is already a problem for many
low lying areas such as Miami Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Hollywood, and
other coastal communities. It will be an incremental problem creeping
up on us for the rest of the century and beyond.
In Miami Beach, as elsewhere in Florida, the lowest lying areas are
the roadways, which are also the location of electrical, water, sewer,
phone and drainage infrastructure. Fortunately given the current
Federally funded special imagery and NOAA data systems we are able to
predict pretty accurately where flooding will occur. Linking that
information with our detailed projections of sea level rise impacts we
can begin now to map vulnerability and build adaptive measures into
every action and plan we undertake. Figure 2 shows the issue with
current, 1, 2 and 3 feet of sea level rise. Looking at a particularly
vulnerable area, Miami Beach, it is clear that the percentage of land
that will be impacted on a daily basis will increase with time as sea
level rises (see Figure 3).
[GRAPHICS NOT AVAILABLE IN TIFF FORMAT]
Figure 2. Rise of Sea Level in Miamia Beach, 0, 1, 2, 3 ft
[GRAPHICS NOT AVAILABLE IN TIFF FORMAT]
Figure 3. Increase in percent of properties that will flood during
high tides at some point during the day as Sea Level Rises in Miami
But the impacts are not only on the coast. Sea level affects ground
water table levels and with our intense rainfall areas far inland can
be flooded, even subject to long term inundation. Water levels are
rising and will continue to rise as groundwater rises concurrently with
sea level. Add the impact summer rains and dealing with water becomes a
major priority. Figures 4 and 5 outline the roadway network degradation
at present, 1, 2, and 3 ft of sea level rise. The figures demonstrate
that a major, underestimated amount of property is vulnerable on the
western edge of the developed areas because the elevations are
decreasing as one moves west from I95.
Figure 4. Miami-Dade County for groundwater-adjusted model results.
[GRAPHICS NOT AVAILABLE IN TIFF FORMAT]
Figure 5. Broward County for groundwater-adjusted model results.
While time will impact our environment, we have three options to
address the change:
Protect infrastructure from the impacts of climate change
Adapt to the changes, and
In the worst case retreat from the change.
We do not believe retreat needs to be considered n the short or
medium term. South Florida has developed in the last 100 years and we
think there will be well over 100 years of life left. As a result, our
best option is adaptation. Adaptation takes different forms depending
on location. For example we can install more coastal salinity
structures, raise road beds, abandon some local roads, increase storm
water pumping, add storm water retention etc. to address many of the
problems. The technology is available today.
FAU has developed a toolbox of options that can be applied to
address these adaptation demands, resulting in an approach that will
need a more managed integrated water system, more operations and
inevitably more dollars. Much of the actual needs are local, but the
problem is regional and requires a concerted effort of federal, state
and local agencies and the private sector to address the scales of the
problem. A community can address the local problems, but the regional
canals, barriers, etc., are beyond the scope of individual agencies.
Collaboration and discussion are needed. The Four County Compact is an
excellent example, but the longer term solutions need the state and
Federal agencies and the related dollars to address larger impacts.
The needs will be large--in the tens of billions. But there are two
things in south Florida's favor--time and money. The expenditures are
over many, many years. Most important in the near term need is the
early planning and identification of critical components of
infrastructure and policy needs and timing for same. That is what FAU
does best. At risk are nearly 6 million of Floridians their economy and
lifestyle, $3.7 trillion in property (2012) in south east Florida alone
and a $260 billion annual economy. All of these are expected to
continue to increase assuming the appropriate plans are made to adapt
to the changing sea level. Protection of the area for the next 100-150
years is achievable as long as we have the science, the understanding
and the will to do it. Plan now, and over the rest of this century
starting now we can raise those billions of dollars needed.
Senator Nelson. All right. Mr. Talbert?
STATEMENT OF WILLIAM D. TALBERT III, PRESIDENT AND CHIEF
EXECUTIVE OFFICER, GREATER MIAMI CONVENTION & VISITORS BUREAU
Mr. Talbert. Thank you very much, Senator. Bill Talbert,
President and CEO of the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors
Bureau, the official destination sales and marketing company
for greater Miami and Miami Beach.
I would like to ask that you not have me follow Mayor
Levine next time. He is way too good at what he does. I would
like to maybe go first, if I could.
Mr. Talbert. And we are a partner, we have a relationship
with the City of Miami Beach.
And I want you to know, Senator, that I, too, like you, was
born in the state of Florida. My mother served in the Navy in
Jacksonville during World War II, and I grew up there. And I
can tell you that living in Jacksonville Beach, we spent most
of our time in the water, in the surf. Early surfers in
Jacksonville. I then was honored to graduate from Florida
Atlantic in Boca with a master's degree. They were very
tolerant there, so----
Mr. Bloetscher. Glad to have you.
Mr. Talbert. Thank you.
And I have been in this community for 40 years-plus.
Let me just talk about the numbers. And I am going to give
you numbers, targeted numbers.
Travel and tourism is greater Miami and the beaches' number
one industry. For the past four years, greater Miami and Miami
Beach has experienced record numbers of visitors. In 2013, a
record 14.2 million visitors spent one or more nights in
greater Miami and Miami Beach and spent a record $22.8 billion
in this community.
In 2013, for the first time in our history, greater Miami
was visited by more international visitors than domestic. For
the past four years and three months, the hospitality sector in
greater Miami and Miami Beach has added jobs each month--each
month--a record 114,700 jobs. Seventy-five percent of all of
those 14.2 million visitors came for a vacation--vacation.
Greater Miami is blessed with approximately 25 miles of world-
The Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau collects
information from independent third parties--collected by
independent third parties. Approximately 400 interviews are
conducted each month. Our surveys in 2013 showed the following.
Forty-five percent of all of our visitors stayed here on
Miami Beach, largely in hotels--largely in hotels. We asked
them, what do you like? Now, they have multiple likes. Fifty-
six percent said their most-liked feature was the weather.
Forty-two percent said their most-liked feature was right where
we are here, South Beach and Ocean Drive.
Right, Mary? You like that?
Mr. Talbert. Thirty-nine, almost 40 percent said their
most-liked feature was the beaches. And then 32 percent said
During the recent BP oil spill, we learned the importance
of the global perception of the condition of our beaches. While
no oil from the BP oil spill made it to greater Miami or Miami
Beach's beaches, the perception of, ``oil on Florida's
beaches'' had the potential to negatively affect tourism to
greater Miami. In fact, because of this potential, BP provided
us a grant to kind of tell the world that there was no oil on
our beaches. Remember, 25 miles of beaches. Why are they coming
for a vacation and beaches a large part of that.
Greater Miami travel and tourism continues to prosper.
Greater Miami and Miami Beach have evolved to be a great global
community. Greater Miami and Miami Beach is now one of the top
tourist destinations in the world. Great weather, great access,
international ambiance, heritage neighborhoods, thriving in
arts and culture, world-class shopping, world-class dining,
and, of course, pristine beaches.
We are looking, as a private destination sales and
marketing company for countywide, Miami Beach, a good--a leader
as a partner, is to work with the governments, both the City of
Miami Beach under its new leadership and the County of Dade.
Harvey Ruvin and I have worked together for a long time. And
those government partners, we are working directly with them on
these serious issues.
And we commend you, Senator, for your leadership on this
issue. These are serious issues.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Talbert follows:]
Prepared Statement of William D. Talbert III, President and Chief
Executive Officer, Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau
Travel and Tourism is Greater Miami's #1 Industry
For the past four years Greater Miami has experienced record
numbers of visitors.
In 2013, a record 14.2 million visitors spent one or more nights in
Greater Miami and spent a record $22.8 billion dollars in our
In 2013, for the first time in our history, Greater Miami was
visited by more international visitors than domestic. For the past 4
years and 3 months the hospitality sector in Greater Miami has added
jobs each month . . . a record 114,700 jobs. 75 percent plus of Greater
Miami's Overnight Visitors come to the community for a ``vacation.''
Greater Miami is blessed with approximately 25 miles of world class
beaches. The Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau [GMCVB]
collects this information from independent third parties. Approximately
400 interviews of visitors are conducted each month by GMCVB
independent contractors. The GMCVB's most recent surveys show the
45 percent of the Overnight Visitors stayed on Miami Beach
56 percent of Overnight Visitors said their ``Most Liked
Feature(s)'' of Greater Miami was: Weather (multiple answers
42 percent said: South Beach/Ocean Drive
39 percent said: Beaches
32 percent said: Sun Bathing
During the recent BP Oil Spill we learned the importance of the
global perception of the condition of our beaches. While no oil from
the BP Oil Spill made it to Greater Miami's beaches the perception of
`oil on Florida's beaches had the potential to negatively affect
tourism to Greater Miami. In fact, because of this potential, BP
provided grant assistance to the GMCVB to deal with this issue. Largely
because no oil made it to Miami's beaches, there was no negative impact
from the BP Oil Spill.
Greater Miami travel and tourism continues to prosper. Greater
Miami has evolved to become a great global community. Greater Miami is
now one of the top tourist destinations in the world. Great weather,
great access, international ambiance, heritage neighborhood, thriving
arts and culture, world class shopping, world class dining and, of
course, pristine beaches.
Senator Nelson. So could you sum up your testimony by
saying, ``No beaches, no bucks''?
Mr. Talbert. That is correct.
Senator Nelson. Dr. Linkin, thank you----
Mr. Talbert. And no jobs.
Senator Nelson. Indeed.
Dr. Linkin, I am especially pleased to have you. Your
industry at large, not your specific reinsurance industry, but
your industry at large is the grease that allows all of these
businesses and residences to continue, because you insure them.
And Swiss Re, a reinsurance company, reinsures against
catastrophe. So we have a coming catastrophe. Tell us what the
insurance industry is doing about it.
STATEMENT OF MEGAN LINKIN, NATURAL HAZARDS EXPERT, SWISS RE
Ms. Linkin. OK. Thank you, Senator Nelson and to the City
of Miami Beach, for hosting me today.
My name is Megan Linkin, and, as the Senator said, I am a
Natural Hazards Expert for Swiss Re.
Now, like you, sir, and like Mr. Talbert, I actually grew
up in a coastal community, as well. I grew up in the North on
the New Jersey shore, but it was the love of that community and
the beach that made me enter a career where I could look at
addressing climate change.
Swiss Re, we are a global reinsurer. We are headquartered
in Zurich, Switzerland. Last year, we marked our 150th
anniversary, and one of the cornerstones of us marking our
150th anniversary was the very loud message that climate change
is happening. It is going to increase risk throughout the
world, especially to those cities and population centers that
are located on the coast.
Climate change, as many others have mentioned here already
this morning, is expected to alter the frequency and severity
of many extreme weather events, from tropical cyclones to
floods to droughts and to extreme rainfall events.
And even currently, without climate change, we are
vulnerable to extreme weather events due to the globalization
of the economy and our increasing reliance on technology. We
saw this vulnerability during Hurricane Sandy in 2012, the
September 2013 floods in Colorado, and the extreme winter that
the Northeast and the Central Plains experienced just this past
And while we don't know whether these individual weather
events are attributable to climate change or natural variations
in the climate system, known as climate variability, we do know
that these events are in line with the expected impacts of
climate change in the coming decades.
It is impossible to attribute any of the insured and
economic weather-related loss to climate change. We simply at
this point in time don't have the means to separate the two
influencers. But what we do know is this: The risk posed by
coastal flood is indisputably growing due to rising sea levels.
And this is going to pose a risk to many of our coastal
communities, and the potential loss in terms of property and
lives is tremendous. We should never lose sight of the fact
that over 1,800 people perished during Hurricane Katrina
because of the storm surge and inadequate preventative measures
that were put in place.
Many coastal communities are exposed to sea level rise and
flood, but few more so than the communities which are located
in the United States. Coastal and shoreline communities in the
U.S. account for approximately $6.6 trillion of the United
States GDP and about 51 million jobs.
And the risk to coastal communities is going to be not only
driven by sea level rise but also by the increasing population
and assets situated in these high-risk areas. As Mr. Talbert
noted, the weather here is really nice.
Ms. Linkin. And if the current population trends continue,
the U.S. coastal population is projected to grow from 123
million people to nearly 135 million people by 2020.
Florida provides a good example, as you already mentioned,
of the risk posed to the U.S. coastline by sea level rise, with
approximately 8,500 miles of tidal shoreline and over 75
percent of the state's population residing in coastal counties.
And the inevitable cost to recover from these coastal and
inland flood events, especially in major cities, in Miami, are
going to be significant and much greater than anything we have
ever experienced before.
Coastal communities thrive on their proximity to the coast
and the development of these regions, which create jobs,
revenue, and enhances the prosperity of the community. However,
there are perverse incentives at play because of the enormous
economic incentive to develop high-risk coastal areas, which
then puts further people and assets at risk.
And as we have already seen many times, the costs when
disaster strikes are externalized. The Federal Government and
then inevitably the taxpayers are expected to foot the bill. We
must rethink this approach in order to reduce risk and protect
And, therefore, we must take action today to prepare
ourselves for the climate of tomorrow. This means controlling
and mitigating our risk to sea level rise through a variety of
measures, including building and zoning codes, seawalls,
reinforcing or relocating key infrastructure, building
elevation, and other measures.
It also means integrating climate risk considerations into
our planning process. For example, if we expect a building or a
piece of infrastructure to have a lifespan of 60 years, then it
must be built not only to withstand the climate today but the
likely climate in the next 60 years.
Until we start to integrate climate change into these
processes--for example, including sea level risk projections
into FEMA flood maps--we will constantly be creating more
problems for future generations to take care of and potentially
creating an ever-growing portfolio of stranded assets.
Insurance is a key component of any holistic risk
management strategy. Insurance cannot replace what is
irreplaceable, such as land and lives, but it can provide both
persons and governments with the financial means to recover and
The insurance industry and the reinsurance industry are
resilient, innovative, and experts in risk evaluation.
Throughout the years, we have worked alongside the government
in implementing standards that have reduced economic loss,
saved lives, and educated the consumer to the true risk faced
by them. An example of that already is seatbelts that are now
standard in all motor vehicles.
Typically, to generate the underwriting and actuarial tools
that we use to assess risk posed by natural catastrophes, we
rely on data from the U.S. Government. And this includes
information from all sources: the USGS, NOAA, the Storm
Prediction Center, the Hurricane Research Division, and any
other official sources. Once any information is published by
these official sources, we can incorporate this into our model.
And this includes sea level rise changes.
Presently, I know of no insurance or reinsurance company
that directly includes the risk of climate change in their
model. And that is because our product is typically contracted
on an annual basis, and in that time period the impact of any
climate changes, including sea level rise, are too small and
insignificant and without scientific consensus to responsibly
include in our modeling approach.
Senator Nelson. But you wouldn't say that over the last
couple of decades, would you? Would not the fact of sea level
rise be some part of the calculation of what the insurance
premium was going to be?
Ms. Linkin. Correct. And that is why it is so critical that
we continue to get this reliable and official information from
these government sources, such as NASA. Because, although we
don't include it explicitly, we do so every time we update the
models and the actuarial tools and the pricing tools, because
we update them with the most up-to-date scientific information,
the most up-to-date hazard information, and the most up-to-date
state of the climate so that when we are assessing risk we are
assessing risk under the climate conditions that we see today,
not the climate conditions that we saw 50 years ago.
Senator Nelson. So these policies that look only one to
three years in the future, is that the reason that the
insurance industry really hasn't come to the table as a partner
in this climate change concern?
Ms. Linkin. Actually, from the perspective of a reinsurer,
I believe that we have. We have developed a methodology that
allows us to incorporate climate change information within our
models and come up with economic loss projections under today's
climate and under future climate-change scenarios. We refer to
this methodology as the economics of climate adaptation, and it
has been successfully deployed globally.
And one of the areas that it was successfully deployed in
was South Florida, which, for our definition, was Broward
County, Miami-Dade County, and Palm Beach. And what we showed
is that, in spite of a potential annual cost of tropical
cyclones impacting approximately 10 percent of the local GDP,
by 2030 over 40 percent of the total expected loss could be
averted using cost-effective measures, such as beach
renourishment and vegetation management.
So we very much acknowledge that this is an issue, and we
very much want to help our partners, whether or not they are
Federal Governments, State governments, municipal governments,
county governments, or primary insurers, understand what their
risks are today and what kind of risk they will be facing in
Senator Nelson. So you are saying that you do build in an
incentive for people to start looking at climate change, by
virtue of what you just said. Is that correct?
Ms. Linkin. If we are contracted and sanctioned by somebody
to do so, we can demonstrate to them what sort of resiliency
measures would be beneficial for them to put in place to offset
many of their losses that they might experience under a changed
Senator Nelson. If they contact you.
Ms. Linkin. Yes.
Senator Nelson. What are you doing proactively, if
anything, to incentivize folks to get prepared for what is
going to occur?
Ms. Linkin. We do it through a lot of outreach. We do it
through a lot of education. We engage very often with
governments to make sure that they understand their risk. We
have deployed tools that our clients have access to, which
allow them to assess their risk through just simple mapping
So we really help our clients focus on what their risk is
today, and if they ask, we are more than happy to help them
focus on what their risks are in the future.
Senator Nelson. The position of a reinsurance company is to
insure and spread the risk of catastrophe. The reinsurance
industry has been critical to Florida in spreading the risk of
huge loss with regard to hurricanes.
Does the insurance industry think as a result of climate
change that we are going to see greater frequency and more
ferocity of storms as a result of the rising temperature?
Ms. Linkin. Yes, we agree with the assessments that were
put forth by the IPCC in the most recent report.
Senator Nelson. So, ergo, does that mean that the cost of
insuring against wind damage becomes greater?
Ms. Linkin. In the future, once we start to see the
influence and once it is discernable within the hazard, we are
going to see that have an impact on insurance premiums. If we
see the current hazard and risk landscape change and the cost
of losses goes up, then, by definition, the cost of insuring
that risk will go up.
Senator Nelson. And you mentioned Hurricane Katrina, that
it was an event that the real damage was not a Category 3 wind,
it was the fact that in the counterclockwise winds they raised
the level of Lake Pontchartrain, it raised the level of the
water in the canals, the pressure built and breached the canals
and filled up the bowl of New Orleans.
Now, if the sea levels rise, what does the experience of
Katrina tell us for a lot of our infrastructure from the
insurance companies? standpoint?
Ms. Linkin. It is going to demonstrate that that
infrastructure is going to be very vulnerable to damage. There
could be some assets that become uninsurable, not because we
are not able to offer insurance--the industry has plenty of
capacity--but because the premium rates might become high,
which would lead to consumers not wanting to pay.
Senator Nelson. I think you have summed it up right there.
[The prepared statement of Ms. Linkin follows:]
Prepared Statement of Megan Linkin, Natural Hazards Expert, Swiss Re
Chairman Rockefeller, Ranking Member Thune, Senator Nelson, and
other members of the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation
my name is Megan Linkin and I'm a Natural Hazards Expert for Swiss Re.
Swiss Re is a global reinsurance company and last year marked our 150th
anniversary. I thank you for the opportunity to testify in front of the
Committee regarding the implications of sea level rise and climate
change. Swiss Re recognizes that climate change will increase risk
throughout the world, especially to those cities and population centers
situated along the coast.
Climate change is expected to alter the frequency and severity of
many extreme weather events, such as floods, droughts and rainfall.
Even currently, we are vulnerable to extreme weather events, due to the
globalization of the economy and increasing reliance on technology. We
witnessed our vulnerability during Hurricane Sandy, the September 2013
floods in Colorado and the extreme winter of 2013/14.
At present, it is difficult to determine whether or not these
recent, extreme meteorological events are attributable to climate
change or climate variability. Regardless, these events are in line
with the expected impacts of climate change in the coming decades. It
is impossible to attribute any of the insured or economic weather
related loss to climate change--we simply don't have the means
currently to discern how much, if any, of the loss was caused by
What we do know is this: The risk posed by coastal flood is
indisputably growing, due to rising sea levels. The increasing risk
that it poses to many of our coastal communities will be tremendous in
terms of loss of property and potentially a loss in life. We should
never lose sight of the fact that over 1,800 people perished due to the
storm surge and inadequate preventative measures in place prior to
Many countries are highly exposed to sea level rise and flood, few
more so than the United States. Coastal and shoreline communities
account for approximately $6.6 trillion to U.S. GDP,\1\ and 51 million
\2\ jobs. The risk to coastal communities is not only driven by sea
level rise, but increasing population and assets situated in these high
risk areas. If current population growth trends continue, the U.S.
coastal population will grow from 123 million people to nearly 134
million people by 2020.\3\
\1\ Source: NOAA
\2\ Source BLS
\3\ Source: NOAA
Florida provides a good example of the risk posed to the U.S.
coastline, with over 8,400 miles of tidal shoreline and over 75 percent
of the state's population residing in coastal counties. The inevitable
costs to recover from these events, especially in major cities like
Miami, are going to be significant and much greater than anything that
we have ever experienced before.
Coastal communities thrive on their proximity to the coast and the
development of these regions. Coastal development creates jobs,
revenue, and enhances the prosperity of the community. However, there
are perverse incentives at play because of the enormous economic
incentive to develop high risk coastal areas, which then puts further
people and assets at risk. As we have seen many times, the costs when
disaster strikes are externalized; the Federal Government and the
taxpayers are expected to foot the bill. We must rethink this approach
in order to reduce the risk and protect our communities.
Therefore, we must act today to prepare for tomorrow. This means
controlling and mitigating our risk to sea level rise through a variety
of measures including building and zoning codes, sea walls, reinforcing
or relocating key infrastructures, building elevations and other
It also means integrating climate risk considerations into our
planning processes. For example, if we expect a building to have a life
span of 60 years then it must to be built to withstand the likely
climate of 60 years in the future. Until we start to integrate climate
change into these processes we will be constantly creating more
problems for future generations to take care of and potentially
creating an ever growing portfolio of ``stranded assets''. A simple
example is incorporating sea level risk projections into FEMA flood
Insurance is a key component of any holistic risk management
strategy. Insurance cannot replace what is irreplaceable, such as land
and lives, but it can provide both persons and governments with the
financial means to recover and rebuild quickly. The insurance industry
is resilient, innovative, and experts in risk evaluation. Throughout
the years we have worked alongside the government in implementing
standards that have reduced economic loss, saved lives and educating
the consumer to the true risks faced by them.
Typically the hazard component of all natural catastrophe models is
based on data published by the United States Government. This would
include current information provided by the United States Geological
Survey, National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration, the National
Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center, the Hurricane Research
Center and other official sources. Once any information published by
these official sources is published, including sea level changes, we
incorporate these changes within our models.
Presently I know of no insurance company or reinsurer that directly
includes the risk of climate change into their models. Our product,
insurance, is typically contracted on an annual basis. Within that time
period the impact of any climate changes including sea level rise are
too insignificant and without scientific consensus to responsibly
include in our modeling approach.
Although we do not directly include climate change within our
models we may unknowingly be doing so within each catastrophe model
update that we do. Every couple of years our models are updated to
reflect the loss history and the scientific findings after the most
recent events. As such any influence that climate change has on these
events is implicitly included. Even though there is not direct/explicit
loading for climate change in our models, we take the issue very
seriously and conduct research which does specifically take climate
change factors into consideration.
The insurance industry, particularly Swiss Re, has pioneered
studies which investigate the economic loss potential from extreme
weather events, and savings from the implementation of various
resiliency measures, in the present and in a new climate regime caused
by climate change. This methodology, which we refer to as the
``Economics of Climate Adaptation,'' has been successfully deployed
globally. South Florida (Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach) is one of
the locations where the analysis was performed; the results showed that
in spite of a potential annual cost of tropical cyclones impacts
costing the equivalent of 10 percent of local GDP by 2030, over 40
percent of the total expected loss could be averted using cost
effective measures such as beach nourishment and vegetation
\4\ Source: Economics of Climate Adaptation main report: http://
If we fail to act we will be faced with the astronomical cost to
recover from our inaction and we may also see the availability of
insurance becoming scare at an affordable price. We will always have
the capacity to insure and reinsure but the impact of a steady gradual
increase in frequency and severity because of these higher risks could
lead to higher premiums, which many consumers may not want to pay.
Without insurance, communities will be slower to recover and many may
not recover at all.
We recognize that Florida has been at the forefront of tacking
action to deal with severe weather impacts no more so in places like
Broward County. In Broward County officials have recognized the
increased risk and are acting upon it. We urge the rest of Florida to
act now in a unified fashion. We support the actions taken by his
committee and thank you again for asking Swiss Re to testify. I look
forward to answering any follow-up questions from the Committee.
Senator Nelson. OK. Do any of the panelists have a question
for another one of the panelists?
Ms. Linkin. I have a question, Senator, for either the
Mayor or the Commissioner.
In your risk management strategies and adaptation
strategies to climate change and sea level rise, are you
considering looking at insurance products to help protect
against residual risks?
Because no matter how much you improve pumping systems,
seawalls, any sort of infrastructure, there is always going to
be that residual risk component remaining. Is insurance an
option for financially protecting against that risk?
Ms. Jacobs. I think one of the important things that
Broward County is doing, and, in fact, we were able to get it
into State law and we have been trying to have it adopted on
the Federal side, and that is what we call adaptation action
areas, through LIDAR technology, to understand where our
So when we start looking at increased costs of insurance,
when we look at the dollars that we have or that we are asking
for from other funders, whether it is the State or the Federal
Government, that we are putting those dollars into making those
areas more resilient, including in this language in our land
development code, so all new projects that get built will have
to consider climate change into the future based on the
modeling that the four counties have done. That, in turn,
affects what we are going to be paying for our insurance.
So understanding where those vulnerabilities are I think is
the first step. And understanding how to then prioritize around
those vulnerabilities to spend our dollars wisely will help us
stand up to or be more prepared for dealing with increased
There is a lot of discussion about retreat, when do you
start having to tell people, ``No, don't live in that area.''
And I have always said that the insurance is going to help push
that decision forward. We are not going to have to, I believe,
as government, go out and say, ``This area has been redlined.
We are no longer going to address roadway problems or drainage
problems. We are going to go focus somewhere else.'' I don't
think we are going to find ourselves in that position. Rather,
I think we are going to find people choosing to live and move
And a recent example would be a business on Las Olas. We
have talked about flooding here in the City of Miami Beach, but
in Fort Lauderdale tidal influences are just as regular there,
as well. A business owner that I was talking to just a month
ago was expecting to expand his lease into the space next door
and grow. After the high tides came in and it flooded his store
two inches and he saw what happened to the roadway, he said,
``Well, I am not going to take the lease next door, I am not
even going to stay here on Las Olas Boulevard, I am going to
move further inland.''
And so it is an interesting conversation because where he
moves inland is going--moving inland isn't just the solution
because there are 1,800 linear miles of canal systems that
drain Broward County.
So understanding where those areas of vulnerability are--
that they are not just associated with the coast--when that
business makes that decision--and making sure that information
is available to the public on our webpage--those things will
help people make the kind of decisions that they need that will
then make us more resilient and hopefully help our bottom line.
Senator Nelson. And so are you all going to have to spend
all kinds of money to help protect Las Olas?
Ms. Jacobs. The City of Fort Lauderdale--I didn't go into
this in my notes, but the City of Fort Lauderdale has just come
out with their projections, and it is in the hundreds of
millions of dollars to address flooding throughout the streets,
throughout the City of Fort Lauderdale.
And you have many cities that are dealing with the same
issues. And it isn't just those issues, but there are certain
cities that don't have their own wastewater utility. And so
what are they going to do when the one that they are drawing
from, if it is an eastern utility, for example, if they have to
go to another new system and that system isn't designed for the
capacity to handle all these new users?
So the problem that we are going to be experiencing isn't
just about flooding. It is about the loss of freshwater, where
you are going to find the money for all of these different
systems, and how you are going to prioritize them.
That, I think, is the most important part about what the
four counties and all the cities underlying us are working
together on, which is to understand where those priorities are,
so that when we do want to go after additional dollars, whether
it is the State or the Federal side, as we did with the City of
Miami Beach, which is to understand who among us is the most
vulnerable here and who can we go support.
That is a different idea for local governments to take,
because generally it is all for one, you know, and none for the
others. So it is a different conversation that we are all
leading ourselves into having to take because of circumstances.
Senator Nelson. Dr. Bloetscher, do any other infrastructure
projects come to mind for you that would have to be addressed
Mr. Bloetscher. I think the biggest ones that we would need
to start looking at, we need to look at canal structures, those
structures that we talked about earlier, moving them closer to
The issue is that if we can pick the ridge and try to put
the protection mechanisms along there, there is the potential
then for, you know, if you have 80 or 90 percent of the
property is actually west of that ridge, you have the
opportunity to start installing incrementally the
infrastructure to do that.
So that would be one. And, of course, that is not
controlled by any local government. It is controlled by the
South Florida Water Management District and the Corps of
That is kind of this thing where a lot of this stuff will
occur locally. Each municipality is addressing the areas where
they see flooding in their community and things like that. But
there are these regional things that are going to lie outside
that, and one of those is dealing with canal structures.
I think there is research that needs to be done on looking
at the infiltration concept to see how well we can drain roads.
We know we can drain land, but how well can we pinpoint that
just to roads.
And I will echo your comment about water supply is a
problem. It is already restricted. Going to saltwater really
isn't the answer because it drives the power costs up. So can
we come up with a scheme where we can take all this excess
stormwater--because what I see in the future is, it is not that
we don't have enough water, which is kind of the mentality we
have been running on for years dealing with water supply. We
will have plenty of water. The problem is it is not necessarily
going to be in the place or in the timing or of the quality
that we want to do for water supply.
So there is some effort that needs to be done there. We
have time to do some of that research and investigation, which
needs to occur now as opposed to later. Because one of the
things that we looked at, as we look at adaptation planning for
communities--and we have done a couple of those, and we have
done some work here on Miami Beach, as well--we pick
milestones. So when we get to six inches, what should we have
done? When we get to a foot, what should we have done?
And the benefit of that for local officials is that you are
not putting infrastructure out there and then we don't need it
for 30 years because, you know, the tide doesn't rise as fast
as you thought or vice versa. At the same time, you are not
waiting so long that all of a sudden a crisis is upon you and
now we have this, ``Oh, we regret that we didn't start this
So, from a planning perspective, we need to embellish the
toolbox quite a bit. And there is a lot of work that needs to
be done before we say that, you know, the solution for Las Olas
is X, Y, and Z. We want to make sure those work.
Senator Nelson. Would you or someone else knit together how
the addressing of the problems of flooding with the
infrastructure projects, how can that be helped knit together
with the billions of dollars that we are spending in the
restoration of the Everglades and trying to turn the Everglades
back closer to what Mother Nature intended, instead of a flood-
control project that was started three-quarters of a century
Mr. Bloetscher. Yes, the issue there is all about water
quality. I mean, the easy thing to do in the western
communities is pick the stormwater up and put it across the
dike into the Everglades. But you have a huge phosphorus and
nitrogen-type problem. So the Corps and the Water Management
District have been working on trying to find some, you know,
STAs to try to treat that.
I think you are going to see more of that, but there is
research that needs to be done, because one of the questions
is, where does that water need to go? And we can put a lot of
water right across the dike, but the problem is, with the
porous limestone, it is going to come right back on you. So you
haven't really solved the problem; you are just pumping water
in a circle. So how do we get it into the right place?
And let me make a note about the Everglades too. As sea
level rises, you know, the low area in Shark Valley of the
Everglades is at, like, four feet on I-75, Alligator Alley, and
it gets lower as you go. Well, you are going to see saltwater
climbing up that, which then potentially threatens wellfields.
The southern end of the Everglades will become a very large
saltwater swamp at some point. And the only way to really
counterbalance that is to figure out a way to get more water
into the Everglades to raise the head, which will alter the
ecosystem out there fairly significantly.
Inches matter. And when we start adding many more inches of
water, however we do that, it will have a fairly significant
change. And there are some Federal policies that would need to
be evaluated in that. Because the idea is, ``Don't change
Mother Nature,'' but----
Senator Nelson. Can you think of--and I will get to some of
the other panelists. Can you think of any other communities or
areas of the globe that have handled this problem, that are
trying to meet a solution to this problem, that we could learn
Mr. Bloetscher. New Orleans a little bit, but different
lessons, perhaps, because that is kind of a low-lying area. In
Florida, ultimately, if you use, you know, the railroad
corridor as your breakpoint, it is kind of a natural dike that
exists there, and you do have all this lower land to the west.
So there are some things to learn there.
There absolutely are some things to learn from the Dutch.
There absolutely are some things to learn from the Italians in
Venice. There are some other areas that are going to have to
deal with this, so it will be interesting to see what the folks
do in Bangladesh. They have way more people exposed to low-
lying land than we do.
So I think there are some good examples out there to learn
from. And we have actually been in contact--last fall, we had a
discussion with the Dutch. We are involved in a process that
the city put on.
Senator Nelson. Dr. Sellers, I would like to expand the
scope here and ask you--we have clearly identified the problem.
We have looked locally at some of the manifestations of the
problem. And we have talked about some of the things that we
can do in the short term.
Are mitigation efforts like improving energy efficiency and
reducing our reliance on fossil fuels, is that worthwhile? Does
that have an effect here?
Mr. Sellers. I think all the IPCC projections show with
pretty good confidence that the climate change we are going to
get directly scales to the amount of fossil fuel we burn. It is
almost a straight line in terms of temperature increase versus
amount of fossil fuel burned.
So it is going to be an intricate and difficult business of
trying to reduce our fossil fuel use while maintaining our
economies, but, ultimately, it is going to be something that I
think we are going to have to manage as a species.
Senator Nelson. Would you describe for the record of our
committee the greenhouse effect?
Mr. Sellers. The greenhouse effect is where you have some
gases like carbon dioxide or methane in the atmosphere that
allow the sunlight to come through. They are transparent, if
you like, to sunlight. But to the heat that is trying to get
off the surface, in terms of infrared radiation--that is the
heat you can feel from a fire or something--it acts like a
blanket. It traps that energy in the atmosphere. And some of
that energy gets redirected back to the surface--that extra
And that is the greenhouse effect. It is just like being
inside a regular greenhouse.
Senator Nelson. And so the temperature of the Earth rises.
Mr. Sellers. That is correct. If the energy coming in
doesn't match the energy going out and there is an imbalance,
the energy has to go somewhere, and it is used to heat up the
As I said earlier, most of it goes into heating up the
oceans, and that is what we have seen over the last century or
so. Ninety percent of the energy has gone to heat up the
oceans, and about seven percent has been used to melt ice. And
that is the interesting business for sea level rise. It is the
change in the ice sheets that is going to have, we expect, a
big impact on sea level rise over the next century.
Senator Nelson. And most of that CO2 [carbon
dioxide] is in fact as a result of--most of the energy being
developed is coming from--fossil fuels.
Mr. Sellers. Most of it is from fossil-fuel burning. There
is a significant contribution from cement production, as well.
So it is human activity.
Senator Nelson. I won't ask you the question, what we are
going to do to get other countries--particularly China comes to
mind. But recently one of our fellow senators was nominated and
confirmed to be the present Ambassador to China, and I told him
that my present to him, my going-away present to Senator Baucus
was going to be a surgical mask for him to wear in Beijing. And
that is not a joke, unfortunately.
So maybe it is going to take that for other people to start
to realize that other countries have got to get with this.
And, of course, anybody want to comment on these
international organizations, like there is one called the IPCC,
that is trying to grapple around that?
Mr. Sellers. I would just make one comment, that I think
the scientific community has taken the stance that it is our
job to produce the very best information for everybody. The
information is not just what we see, but it is what our models,
which are based on very sound physics--it is what our models
think is likely to happen.
So we are here to provide the information. Trying to figure
out the best way to thread the world's economy through the
rapids ahead of us is a job for the public and policymakers.
Ms. Jacobs. And, Senator, if I could, in response to your
question, I think it is super-important that the United States
of America becomes a real leader. If we want to talk about what
other countries ought to be doing, we ought to be talking about
what we do here first. Until this country gets serious about
funding alternative energy sources----
Ms. Jacobs. You know, you do what you can. We can't really
change what other countries are doing, but we sure can be
responsible for our own.
So looking at alternative energy funding, we look at what
we are doing within our own policymaking within our cities and
counties. And we know that each of us, even in our own homes,
can make significant changes.
And I would point to a tiny little statistic, but when you
look across the country, what it could change. The amount of
fuel that is being used to mow lawns, trim hedges, all of that,
you could run a weed whacker or a lawnmower in your yard for
one hour and produce the same particulates that you could if
you got in your car, drove to Flagstaff, Arizona, and back,
from Fort Lauderdale, back again.
So when we talk about all the different ways in which we
are contributing, there are a lot of ways in which we can make
changes. In Broward County, we set up a system called
NatureScape Broward, which takes an example of what you could
do in your own yard, school, or business. And the idea was,
wherever you might stand in the County, there would be another
certified property within a quarter-mile of that place. Today,
we have well over 3,000 certified properties that have taken
this idea of sustainability and husbandry and attached it to
what we are doing individually.
So it starts individually. It really needs to go to the
next level, which is broader than just our states, but to the
funding that is coming out of the Federal Government.
Senator Nelson. All of you have been spectacular, and the
record is pretty complete with what you have testified. There
is one thing more that I want to get on the record.
Dr. Sellers, we have been facing budget cuts at NASA, which
means that we may not be able to continue to get some of these
satellites that provide the data for the measurements that you
have shown. As a matter of fact, we have a gap up until 2017.
[A cell phone rings, playing music]
Senator Nelson. That is very good dance music.
We have a gap. Would you explain for the record, please,
what the gap is and what some kind of budget cutting that would
prohibit future satellites on these measurements would do to
our ability to understand what is happening to our planet?
Mr. Sellers. Well, thanks for the opportunity.
First of all, it is really important to understand that
when you are studying something like climate, where you are
looking at a lot of natural variability, no two years are
alike. You have to keep an eye on the system. You need a
continuous set of mutually reinforcing measurements, and you
have to keep them going. And this requires a significant
investment across a portfolio of satellite instruments, not
So, for example, we were talking earlier about, we have two
ways of keeping track of the ice masses on the planet. One is
using lasers from space that measure the altitude of ice
sticking up off the surface. And the other is a gravity
measurement system that is beautifully complicated, but the way
it works is it actually weighs the amount of ice sitting on top
of Greenland and Antarctica.
So we want to keep these continuous measurements going
because you can see it is very important to track rates of
change and how much these contribute to sea level rise. So I
would say it is vitally important that we sustain investments
in the whole portfolio.
Mr. Bloetscher. Do you mind if I add----
Senator Nelson. Doctor?
Mr. Bloetscher.--one thing to that?
I completely agree, being able to get satellite imagery is
really important. It is what we rely on to do a bunch of our
work. But I don't think we want to neglect, we have an entire
system that USGS and NOAA monitor on the ground what is
actually happening--water gauges, groundwater, and things like
that. That is equally as important, because what happens is
those two things go together.
And I know the budget cut issue has hit USGS, NASA, and all
those agencies, but those monitoring programs that have been
funded at the Federal level are critical to being able to get a
good handle on all of these climate issues, not just in Florida
but nationally and around the world.
Mr. Sellers. I would agree that the combination of
satellite and surface measurements is crucial. You can't really
get far without both of these.
Senator Nelson. Does our excellent staff have any questions
that you would ask?
Well, I want to thank everybody for participating. And I
want to thank the panel. You are obviously experts at what you
have testified. And for the record, as a Committee of the U.S.
Senate, we are most appreciative.
I am going to call this to the attention of several of our
Senators that have formed a task force on climate change. And
these are some Senators that happen to be members of the
Commerce Committee, others are not.
I am also going to call it to the attention of some of my
friends in the Senate that believe that there is no data that
is showing climate change. And I hope that we can continue to
keep this discussion going so that we can come to some
reasonable conclusions of what we need to continue to do before
it is too late.
Five hundred years ago, Ponce de Leon discovered La
Florida. And it was this bountiful land that he called
``Florida'' because it was Pascua de Flores at the time that he
arrived. And then, over the years, we have had the changes that
you all have chronicled.
And so I am very, very grateful to you for your testimony.
And the meeting is adjourned.
[Whereupon, at 11:45 a.m., the hearing was adjourned.]
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