|Winter Park, FL|
Sea level has slowly risen for the last two centuries, but in the last twenty years the rate has increased about 80% faster than the United Nation's Panel on Climate Change estimated due to melting ice from the polar ice sheets. Levels are now expected to rise by 0.5 to 1.0 meter by 2100. Sea level rise will continue beyond 2100. In the past natural systems, such as barrier islands, mangroves, and marshes regulated the dynamic relationship between land and sea in the low-lying region. These natural systems have largely been disrupted or destroyed. Modern engineering has brought his infrastructure literally to the edge of the sea and beyond. Virtually none of it was built to withstand significant sea-level rise, although some was built to withstand localized storm surges. Most of Florida's 18 million residents live less than 60 miles from the Atantic Ocean or the Gulf of Mexico. Three-fourths of those reside in coastal counties that generate 79% of the state's annual economy. The cost of replacing infrastructure and building rendered inadequate is estimated to be $3.0 trillion by 2030. Either the state finds the money to replace or improve structures to withstand higher tides and surges or the human population will have to move.
Ecosystems such as Florida Bay, the Everglades, Ten Thosand Islands and Big Bend coastline are already showing signs of rising sea-level stress. Florida's large estuaries will also manifest impacts. Then effects will be found in tidal rivers and then inland rivers. Major shifts in wildlife and plant communities will occur. Southern Florida will be affected before the Panhandle, but wherever there are tides in a state with more than 1200 miles of coastline and 4500 square miles of estuaries and bays, will experience the effects of slowly sinking beneath the waves.