Protect Cities Threatened by Rising Seas

The destructive power of the ocean viewed after a major storm, is evident.

Target: Gina McCarthy, Administrator, US Environmental Protection Agency

Goal: Implement national adaptation plan for all coastal cities facing growing effects of climate change.

The oldest city in the United States; St. Augustine, Florida (1565), is celebrating 450 years. It is also regularly threatened with floods from steadily rising water. Despite its considerable value as a tourist attraction, there is no plan for dealing with this threat or even recognizing that rising seas are threatening the state of Florida. About 10 times a year, the narrow streets of St. Augustine fill with water as do many of Florida’s coastal cities, including Miami, but the state has not prepared an adaptation plan for what is obviously happening.

People like to live on the water and the coastline of the United States is heavily populated with homes, businesses and countless, priceless natural attractions. Fragile coastal areas are weakened, in every way, by the growing effects of climate change. Already under stress from human activity, the coast is battered by harsher and harsher storms while invaded by non-native species and other forms of pollution. As oceans absorb more carbon dioxide (CO2) these concentrations cause the oceans to absorb even more and, in this way, become increasingly acidic. Rising acidity and warmer waters pose a growing threat to both man-made infrastructure and marine ecosystems. Shoreline erosion, loss of wetlands and disrupted coastal ecosystems are also some of the effects.

We can’t wait for each state or locality to wake up and recognize the danger they’re facing before they develop and implement a plan for what is certain to come. Natural ecosystems, burdened with coastal development, can collapse if left to adapt to climate change on their own. If we’re going to save our coastline, its economy, property and population, we have to provide a national vision. If we don’t, storm surge rise, coupled with the growing number and intensity of hurricanes, will decide the issue for us.


Dear Administrator McCarthy,

Our coastal cities are already experiencing regular flooding. St. Augustine, the country’s oldest city, is flooded about 10 times a year. Downtown Miami is also regularly flooded. Residents call it ‘King Tide.’ That’s high tide on a full moon and it floods the streets.

This isn’t a problem that’s going to go away. Quite the contrary, it’s going to get worse, a lot worse. Florida and other states are trying to ignore climate change, but the progress of climate change is relentless and playing politics with this threat only leaves all of us more vulnerable.

If we aren’t prepared to see our coastline destroyed through neglect, we have to try and protect it with a national vision and a national plan. This framework would be invaluable to the businesses, property owners and local policy makers who currently have no responsible leadership or guidance on this critical issue that is worsening as you are reading this.


[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Magnus Manske

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