Rising tides force Miami Beach residents to seek higher ground

Miami — Scientists with the United Nations Wednesday released their most alarming report yet on climate change. Oceans are warming, sea levels are rising and polar ice is melting — all of that is accelerating because of increasing carbon dioxide levels.

The effects have been seen in more intense storms and floods. Fish populations and dropping and animal species are being driven from their habitats. But the report warns the harshest consequences may be on low-lying coasts, where almost 700 million people live.

The shores of Miami Beach are lined with multi-million dollar homes and yachts. For more than 60 years, it has been home to charter boat captain Dan Kipnis. The low-lying Miami Beach regularly floods during high tides, but not because of storms or hurricanes.

“Eventually, the water just keeps coming and this you cannot turn off,” Kipnis said.

It’s why Kipnis is headed for higher ground. He said it was hard to leave, but now he lives farther up the coast and 16-feet above sea level.

U.N. climate report warns of ocean damage, urges immediate action

In the future, he may be joined by millions of others. The new U.N. climate change report predicts rising global sea levels will leave low-lying coastal areas vulnerable to land loss. Climate scientists have developed a simulation, showing an extreme scenario where sea levels rise roughly 10 to 12 feet by the year 2100.

Miami Beach Chief Resilience Officer Susanne Torriente is trying to stem the tide. “This is our new normal,” she said.

The city is raising street levels, installing 80 new pumps and fortifying its seawall. “We’re adapting and we’re investing,” Torriente said.

Author Jeff Goodell has written extensively on rising ocean waters and their potential effect. He said over the next 80 to 100 years, he would argue “that Miami as we know it today, will not exist.” Kipnis agrees.

“We’re not going to be able to stay here. We’re going underwater,” he said.

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