Seas Rising but Florida Keeps Building on the Coast

florida-coast-aerialAs seen on Scientific American: The home that Stanley Young and Rich Cusmano are building here will hover above an infinity pool, a shimmering glass-and-concrete icon of tropical luxury set on one of the coastal city’s scenic waterways.

Anyone willing to pay upward of $4 million for such a showpiece will, of course, want some certainty about his or her investment. The home sits on a waterfront lot that was just 2.79 feet above sea level, on a street that already floods during extreme tides and in a region where climate change will fuel sea-level rise by as much as 10 inches over 1992 levels by 2030.

“Buyers are becoming very savvy,” Young said. “The first question they say to us is: ‘Will it flood?’”

Therein lies the uneasy reality in South Florida, home to 6 million people and projected to grow by 3 million over the next three decades. Its very existence depends on the continued allure of the beaches, waterways and natural environment. Yet, by 2050, an estimated $15 billion to $36 billion of Florida’s coastal property will be threatened by sea-level rise, according to a report last year from the Risky Business Project, a Bloomberg Philanthropies effort that quantifies economic risks from climate change.