Is Climate Change "Sinking In" For Leaders?

Dec 4, 2012


Leaders from throughout the region meet in Jupiter later this week for the fourth annual Regional Climate Leadership Summit, and the timing couldn't be better. Or worse, depending on your perspective. 

Pounding surf and high tides from Hurricane Sandy's passage have put the issue front and center, especially in Fort Lauderdale.

There, the sea wall along the coastal State Road A1A in Fort Lauderdale has been overrun by the ocean. It has reduced the road from four to two lanes, perhaps permanently.

South Florida Sun-Sentinel reporter Brittany Wallman says the problem has taken Broward County officials by surprise and that the bigger concern for leaders there is the effect on coastal real estate and especially the way it looks to the potential tourist.

"This is something that no one expected. They're still a little bit in shock and haven't figured out what the long term plan is. They never really had analyzed 'hey, how much time do we have before the sea eats A1A?'"

Wallman says the state has temporarily used concrete barriers taken from a massive construction project at nearby Interstate 595 to hold the water back.

But politicians are wary of alarming visitors, and Wallman adds that they are walking a fine line.

"This is the worst kind of publicity that they can get, especially right now when we've got the most fabulous weather. Tourists could be salivating over us walking around in tank-tops. But, instead, they're looking at workers in hazard orange and this mess between a road and beach."

Not to mention the dangers to the real estate market. Hundreds of waterfront homes are threatened by the encroaching seas. 

The state was also counting on millions of dollars from the federal government for beach renourishment projects,which now seem pointless. 

Instead, officials will be looking at new methods to stem the tide, including breakwaters and additional jetties.

While Broward leaders don't exactly know the future plan is, all agree something must be done quickly.

Broward's mayor, Kristin Jacobs, is among the leaders from around the region attending this week's Climate Leadership Summit. Scientists from around the nation will also be in attendance. The conference meets Thursday and Friday at Jupiter Beach Resort along, yes, A1A in Palm Beach County, which is also witness to the ravages of sea-level rise. 

If you see signs of climate change, we'll like to hear about and see it.

Post pictures to our Facebook Page, or follow us on Twitter @WLRN, and show us what you've seen in your part of South Florida.