Irma packed a punch in South Florida, but it didn’t knock out our infrastructure completely. To protect families as much as its buildings, South Florida needs to transform Irma recovery into a higher level of resilience planning: one that includes the economic, health, and housing needs of all communities, particularly for communities of color and those living paycheck to paycheck.
Miami is more likely to experience a hurricane than any other U.S. metropolitan area. Even without a hurricane, our low elevation and rising sea levels have spurred a critical need for millions of dollars of investment in new infrastructure to protect our drinking water from intruding saltwater and to help us navigate sunny-day tidal flooding. Sea-level rise and hurricane threats are already serious issues for Florida and the rest of the United States, and will continue to be our greatest challenge.
This climate challenge puts our homes, jobs, and health at risk. When roads are flooded, people can’t get to work or school. Storm damage reduces the supply of affordable housing and can spur mold-related health issues. Rising temperatures and pollution worsen health conditions such as asthma and encourage bacteria growth.
Fortunately, this challenge is met with an opportunity. South Florida is taking action to build the resilience the region needs, but more leadership at every level is needed. Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, and Monroe counties are updating the Regional Climate Action Plan, or RCAP, to protect people and places from the worst effects of climate change. If implemented, the plan will coordinate government efforts in the region to help all residents rebound and prosper despite the threats of climate change. It employs strategies to provide clean energy to all communities, ensure training and access to jobs and education, and create healthier living environments. As important, the plan aims to address racial and economic disparities and focus on areas that already are more exposed to increasingly extreme weather. It also addresses the need to combat pollution that has caused these more powerful storms.
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To protect Floridians and our changing environment, leaders at the community, elected, and regional levels must collaborate and coordinate to build a plan that will prevent the worst effects of storms and help people thrive after they occur.
The latest draft of the RCAP will be released soon, with a call for public comment. The public and our leaders should rally for a comprehensive approach that includes housing, economic opportunity, and public health. Only then can South Florida build stronger communities that can prosper in the wake of the extreme weather we see today, and will see more of in the future.
Daniella Levine Cava represents District 8 on the Miami-Dade County Commission.