City of Miami Declares Climate Change Emergency

The declaration was pushed by persistent activism by environmental advocates and by the realities of sea level rise.

king tide miami
NBC 6

The city of Miami has joined the city of Miami Beach in declaring a climate change emergency.

The city took the action Thursday, pushed by persistent activism by environmental advocates and by the realities of sea level rise. Sunny day flooding can happen at almost any time of the year, not just during the king tide periods.

"These are phenomenons that we have to deal with, and we need help," said Miami Mayor Francis Suarez.

Suarez and the city commission took a step in that direction with the emergency declaration.

"It means that we're taking issues that we're dealing with climatically very seriously; it also is a signal to the state and federal governments that we need their help," Suarez said.

Help in the form of money. The city wants Washington and Tallahassee to match the $192 million Miami has set aside for climate mitigation projects.

"We are redesigning some of our parks and public spaces to become urban reservoirs, we have already installed 50 anti-tidal valves that will help prevent backflow of water into the city, and of course we're monitoring king tide with drones and sensors that we've installed in different parts of the city," Suarez explained.

Theo Quenee founded the non-profit environmental activist group, SendIt4TheSea. His group has been one of several pushing for the emergency declaration with constant activism at city hall.

"Just establishing that there is a climate emergency eliminates a lot of questions behind whether climate change is real or not, that's the main significance of it," Quenee said.

Mayor Suarez, a Republican, says climate change is finally becoming a post-partisan issue after years in which the GOP has denied its existence.

"I think why people are unifying on the partisan landscape is we're focusing on the issues that we see, we see the flooding, we see the wildfires in California, we see the mega hurricanes like Dorian which put the Bahamas under 20 feet of water and killed thousands of people, so we're dealing with the climatic events that we see, we can't ignore them," Suarez said.

Suarez says every dollar spent on prevention saves seven dollars in post-recovery costs.

That kind of math transcends political boundaries.

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