Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber, exercising smart leadership, helped bring an expert panel to assess the city’s climate resilience projects. Visiting scientists and practitioners complimented the city on efforts to combat the effects of sea-level rise and made a series of recommendations, as well, to include sea walls, increase green spaces and conduct more-stringent water testing.
What is the tab for these necessary adaptations? According to the Miami Herald, a whopping $500 million. Who is going to pay for that? My guess is taxpayers. And if Miami Beach alone is spending $500 million to correct this problem caused by years of civic neglect and corporate irresponsibility, what might the tab for be for all of South Florida? How much will the residents of Key Biscayne have to fork out? How about those living in Cutler Bay, Pinecrest and Palmetto Bay?
We should take a cue from communities in Colorado that just filed a lawsuit against fossil fuel companies for their science-verified contributions to climate change. Colorado’s environmental ailments include droughts and more frequent forest fires. They may be different problems, but the cause and financial burden is the same. Colorado communities want ExxonMobil and Suncor to pay their fare share. They helped cause the problem. They should help pay for the solution.
There is legal precedent. Florida succeeded in making tobacco companies pay for smoking-related deaths and illnesses. We now see cities across the country suing drug manufacturers and distributors for helping to cause the current opioid epidemic.
Battling climate change is as much a financial decision as it is an environmental one. We might all agree on our dislike for flooded neighborhoods, increased taxes and slumping property values as a result of sea level rise. I bet we can also agree that those fossil fuel companies who made fortunes while knowingly polluting the environment should now have to pay their fare share of the tab to fix it.
Jorge Mursuli, Miami