Miami is a long way from Seacoast, New Hampshire where I live, work, and serve the citizens of Durham, but we do have one important thing in common: climate change.
Miami will host the first Democratic debates on June 26 and 27. Towns, cities and the citizens we serve across America should expect each candidate to arrive in Miami prepared to explain his or her plans of climate action — to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and position America to lead the world in green energy technology.
I have a lifelong connection with Gunstock Mountain and the other ski resorts across our state and want a future with snowy New Hampshire winters, stable shorelines, and a booming economy powered by clean, sustainable energy.
We collectively want a vibrant Florida to visit; after all, New England is home to thousands of “Florida snowbirds.”
Meltwater from the Greenland ice sheet is one of the main causes of sea level rise plaguing both Florida and New Hampshire. As temperatures continue to warm from human greenhouse gases, sea level will continue to rise.
Miami and Seacoast NH are already experiencing more and more flooding, even on sunny days.
A 2018 report from the Union of Concerned Scientists, incorporating real estate values from Zillow, indicates 5,718 of Miami’s homes are at risk of becoming chronically inundated.
In 2018 those homes were worth over $2 billion, housed an estimated 13,037 people, and contributed $37 million in property taxes.
New Hampshire may have the shortest coastline in the continental 48; nevertheless by 2045, more than $645 million-worth of residential property here (based on today’s values) is at risk of chronic flooding.
Homes at risk in 2045 currently contribute about $9 million in annual property tax revenue to their municipalities.
The homes in NH that would face projected flooding by the end of the century are currently worth about $2.4 billion.
Miami’s early attempts to confront sea level rise include raising roads and installing pumps — to the tune of $500 million. Durham is addressing climate change in our Master Plan.
Because the oldest parts of Durham were settled almost four hundred years ago along low-lying tidal waters on the shore of the Oyster River and Great Bay, adaptation and resiliency planning related to sea level rise are key priorities here.
The purpose of the town’s Climate Adaptation Chapter is to develop strategies that protect areas at risk from flooding due to climate change and to identify various regulatory and non-regulatory options that can be considered by the town.
Durham is not alone. Portsmouth is confronting sea level rise.
Leaders in every coastal town have assessed the vulnerabilities of their public buildings, pump stations, and roads to coastal flooding.
Citizens in Hampton and Rye voted at a town meeting to spend money to address coastal flooding. Local knowledge and expertise, and the input and resolve of our residents, are essential and vital to success.
To think that America can confront the impacts from a changing climate by relying solely on state and local actions is unrealistic and irresponsible.
We need active leadership at the Federal level led by the President of the United States.
Between now and the June debates, the presidential candidates in both parties should be sharing their plans with our communities and listening to our concerns, and those of our citizens, as they crisscross New Hampshire.
The 2018 report from the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says we have 12 years to make drastic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions if we are to avoid the worst climate change impacts: snowless ski slopes and flooded Miami.
By the end of the term of the next president we will be halfway to the IPCC deadline; the next president must be ready to hit the ground running.
Everyone from Miami, Florida to Durham, New Hampshire, is depending on it.
Todd Selig has been the Administrator for the Town of Durham, NH since 2001. He lives with his wife and two daughters in Durham.