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New Jersey Must Count the True Costs of Preparing for Sea-Level Rise

February 14th, 2014 by

Fort Lauderdale. Photo source: Milei.vencel via wikimediacommons

Fort Lauderdale. Photo source: Milei.vencel via wikimediacommons

Fort Lauderdale, Fla., is a city of 171,000 people.  If it were in New Jersey, it would be the third largest city behind Newark and Jersey City.  Fort Lauderdale, as well as other cities and towns in Florida, has had to deal with the reality of rising sea levels sooner than those of us in New Jersey.  What they are finding is that it is enormously expensive to try and stay one step ahead of Mother Nature.  Fort Lauderdale’s latest efforts will cost upwards of $1 billion, or about $6,000 for every resident (not taxpayer) living there. 

In densely populated areas, this might make sense in order to maintain cities for another generation or two.  But does this kind of investment make sense in less densely populated communities that may require the same level of protection at similar costs?  It’s time that we pay attention to the science of sea level rise, assess communities’ vulnerabilities accurately and make smart future-oriented decisions about infrastructure investments and land-use decisions.

If climate change continues to be ignored and sea levels rise according to even the most conservative trends and predictions, the cost to keep the ocean out will be exponentially higher than what Fort Lauderdale is facing today, and at some point it may no longer be technically feasible.

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