Concerned residents, experts discuss climate change and sea level rise in South Florida

An audience at Miami Beach Botanical Garden for a Nov. 11 screening of the documentary ‘South Florida's Rising Seas Impact.’
An audience at Miami Beach Botanical Garden for a Nov. 11 screening of the documentary ‘South Florida's Rising Seas Impact.’ cportilla@miamiherald.com

A group of concerned residents and environmental experts gathered Wednesday at the Miami Beach Botanical Garden for a screening of South Florida’s Rising Seas Impact.

The documentary produced by professors and journalism students at Florida International University highlights the dangers of climate change and how it affects South Florida.

Kate MacMillin, the documentary’s executive producer, said her goal is to make it easier for people to educate themselves on the topic.

“When we started two years ago no one was talking about this,” MacMillin said. “We were afraid people would throw us out the door. Now people are aware but they don’t know what to do. The leaders need to figure out how to simplify what needs to be done.”

Organizations such as Climate Leadership Engagement Opportunities (CLEO), work as a link between citizens and environmental education.

The CLEO Institute is a nonprofit organization working to educate the public, students, elected officials and leaders on climate change. Through events, social discussions, trainings and interactive activities, CLEO is working to bridge the gap between the issues and the general public.

Caroline Lewis, founder and executive director of CLEO, said she was excited to see the diversity in the room. “Climate change affects everyone,” Lewis said. “Younger generations need to be concerned about these changes because it will impact them directly.”

A panel discussion followed the screening. Audience members and experts expressed their concerns for the future of South Florida and Miami Beach, which is predicted to see water levels rise 6 to 10 inches over the next 15 years.

Mitchell Chester, an attorney, argued that people should be concerned about the construction along the coastlines and encouraged them to challenge developers.

“Every one of these buildings will further acidify the ocean when the first floor is inundated permanently because of the building materials,” Chester said. “So it’s time now for citizens to stand up because these are desperate times and to organize lawful, constructive, meaningful protests about future development and that should start now.”

To view sea level rise in your area use the tool eyesontherise.org/app/