A matter of when, not if

SWAMPED: Seasonal high tides have caused flooding of some low-lying streets in Miami Beach.
SWAMPED: Seasonal high tides have caused flooding of some low-lying streets in Miami Beach. MIAMI HERALD STAFF

To their credit, Miami-Dade leaders haven’t kept their heads in the sand over the threat of climate change to our largely coastal county — an area so vulnerable to the threat of saltwater intrusion.

Former Commissioner Katy Sorenson was an early champion of taking action. Most recently, County Commissioner Rebeca Sosa has put the issue front and center, working to create the Sea Level Rise Task Force and putting County Clerk Harvey Ruvin in charge.

The two of them, who spoke to the Editorial Board last week, have done a superb job keeping focused, shutting out the politics of this issue that has been freighted with ideological opposition and downright denial. The reality is, ice caps are melting, seas are rising and South Florida is Ground Zero in what will be the devastating effects. Punto! Just ask Miami Beach, which has wisely committed up to $400 million to install scores of pumps to counter widespread flooding.

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez, too, gets it. He has supported the work and warnings of the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Compact, which unites Miami-Dade, Broward, Monroe and Palm Beach leaders in preparing the area for rising sea levels, already under way.

Still, most preparations carried out so far have been intangible, informal, futuristic for the 3-foot sea-level rise predicted by 2060.

This week, Ms. Sosa and Mr. Ruvin will ask the 13-member commission to make its concern more concrete.

Ms. Sosa’s resolution asks commissioners to make battling sea-level rise an integral part of the county’s growth and development process. Her efforts, if approved, of course will come with an eventual price tag. But this will be money well-spent — money that means this region’s survival as a business engine, a tourist lure and the place millions of us call home.

Armed with the July findings and recommendations of the Sea Level Rise Task Force, Ms. Sosa is proposing a resolution that asks the mayor to begin taking, as she told the Editorial Board, “baby steps” to seriously address how to mitigate damage when — not if — the effects of climate change hit full force.

Here’s what the resolution asks the mayor to do: accelerate adaptation of the planning process recommended by the task force and work with other state and federal agencies; have county administrators establish formal oversight for the climate-change planning process; have the county identify the most vulnerable areas and incorporate sea-level rise and storm-surge risks when considering or approving major projects. And it asks that the county recognize the need to develop insurance mechanisms that will provide real help to the victims of climate change.

The way Ms. Sosa and Mr. Ruvin see it — and we agree — if the region doesn’t take action now, we and, as important, future generations will regret such irresponsibility. “Without planning and action, sea-level rise will affect Miami-Dade’s vital facilities and infrastructure,” Ms. Sosa said.

She said that the county can’t ignore the possibility that, if tides are not held at bay, our county could become uninsurable, decreasing the value of our $6-trillion worth of built environment.

That’s a dire prediction, but she is not crying wolf. Unless the commission wants to roll the dice on the notion that climate change is a fallacy, they will approve Mr. Ruvin and Ms. Sosa’s recommendations.