Teaching about Sea Level Rise: Ft. Lauderdale, Florida as an example
This case was prepared by Alana Edwards and Mary Beth Hartman, under the direction of Dr. Leonard Berry, The Center for Environmental Studies, Florida Atlantic University for the 2014 Teaching about Risk and Resilience workshop.
Sea level rise is one of the many risks we face in the midst of a changing climate. Participants at the 2014 Teaching about Risk and Resilience workshop discussed ways to teach about sea level rise to undergraduate students in a variety of disciplinary focuses using the case outlined below.
A 2007 study ranking the world's cities most at risk to sea level rise found Miami (defined as greater South Florida) to be number one in terms of property value and in the top ten in respect to people (OECD 2007). The reasons for these risks include the low lying topography, our desire to build along the coasts, and our region's exposure to tropical storms and hurricanes which become more damaging with each increment of sea level rise.
This case study selects the city of Ft. Lauderdale, a coastal community with a population of 165,000, and identifies the specific short- and long-term risks. It also discusses city and county responses to those risks, plans for sustainability in the face of a changing (and sometimes uncertain) environment, and explores additional measures that might be necessary. At the state level, there is only limited recognition of these problems. However, at local levels in South Florida, current impacts and future projected impacts have motivated mayors, county officials, and parts of civil society cooperatively to plan mitigation, resilience and adaptation planning responses. The four southern counties of Monroe, Miami-Dade, Broward (Ft. Lauderdale), and Palm Beach have formed the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact (The Compact) and are working together on mitigation and adaptation planning. The Compact has produced a series of reports and hosts an annual Summit, which allows for broad citizen input into these issues. The universities in these counties are similarly engaged with active research programs, public workshops, and outreach.
The case study will assess the vulnerability to various levels of sea level rise and storm surge, identify responses planned or underway, and explore additional measures that might be necessary as the city plans its resilience.Individuals with expertise/responsibilities in the following areas have helped create the case study:
- The Mayor or a County Commissioner - Jack Seiler or Kristin Jacobs
- City Assistant Manager - Susan Torriente
- City Natural Resources Manager - Jennifer Jurardo or Nancy Gassman
- Risk Expert / Vulnerability Assessment - Ricardo Alvarez or Keren Bolter
- Business and Risk Management - Mantha Mehallis
- Natural Resources Scientist - Leonard Berry or Nicole Hernandez Hammer
- The importance of understanding the holistic hydrological system contributing to flooding.
- The impact of sea level rise on people where they live and work; how they manage water.
- The meaning of sustainability for the various socio-economic segments of the community.
- The current and potential economic impacts (positive and negative).
- Options for mitigation and remediation of both the social system and the economic system.
- Fort Lauderdale Example (detailed information) (Acrobat (PDF) 625kB May15 14) - important background information for the example.
- A Region Responds to a Changing Climate Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact Counties, from Southeast Florida Climate Compact
- Adaptation Planning in Florida, from FloridaJobs.org
- Adapting To Climate Change Now: The Critical Issues For Florida Communities - From Planning To Action, slides from the 2013 American Planning Association - Florida Chapter annual meeting
- Past and Projected Trends in Climate and Sea Level for South Florida , 2011 technical report from the South Florida Water Management District
- City of Fort Lauderdale Adaptation Action Area Pilot , a presentation from the Community Resiliency Initiative Focus Group given in April 2013
Bringing the Fort Lauderdale Sea Level Rise case example and experience into the classroom
- Flooding considerations-
- Students explore flood plan developments in town. Students look at flood plan insurance maps and compare the maps for different years.
- Students compare different decade maps (GIS use, large flood).
- Flooding and water pollution – like to make connections that what we do locally affects other areas, when floods, it sends down the Mississippi. Deposition of pollutants.
- Social science-
- Creating a conversation to solve our problem together.
- Readability Index on documents (needs to be a 5 to 8 for most populations.)
- Words and language to make understandable.
- Six America's Report – Social study of how you communicate with different groups. http://environment.yale.edu/climate-communication-OFF/files/climatechange-6americas.pdf
- Variability of effects-
- Adaptation to the Changes is local
- Degree of sea level rise varies by region, from single digit to double digits of mm per year in different locales.