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Miami: Real Life Atlantis

Pamela Rivera

Posted November 26, 2013

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Recently, there have been a string of reports depicting Miami’s vulnerability, the New York Times and Rolling Stones have both written stories drawing attention to the city’s uncertain future. As the most climate vulnerable coastal city in the United States there is a sense of urgency to act. As someone who has many memories interconnected with this beautiful city, I got married on the beach in South Beach, I demand that our policy makers take climate change seriously. This is a looming crisis that needs daring action. Like yesterday. 

Miami was built on a swamp. It is truly a testament to human ingenuity that it stands and has lasted this long. Canals were built and swamp water was drained; from this came a city that has been battling its fate ever since. The recent Rolling Stone article pointed out that 75 percent of the 5.5 million people in South Florida live along the coast. The latest research, including an assessment by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, suggests that sea level could rise as high as six feet by the end of the century. This would mean Collins Ave. and most of South Beach would be under water. And in a more immediate future the city has to worry about the loss of drinking water.

Attribute: Matthew Toro

Sea-level rise is the result of a warming planet. As the planet gets warmer more ice melts. Most of the rise in sea-level has occurred due to the thermal expansion of ocean water; the global average sea level has risen about nine inches. In September, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change or IPCC reported that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.

In 2007, and artist named Eve created a project called HighWaterLine in NYC, she used theCourtesy of Jayme Gershen Metro East Coast Assessment which repeatedly pointed out how climate change would create more frequent storms in areas ten feet above sea level. Prophetically, much of the area she demarcated in 2007 was hit in 2012 by Hurricane Sandy. This year she expanded her project and HighWaterLine came to Miami. 


 This project helped the local community highlight and examine how sea level rise and higher sea levels create higher storm surges, which, in turn, push water farther inland and impact their community. HighWaterLine | Miami based its 26 mile art piece on the various levels of sea level rise calculated on Climate Central.Since climate change impacts regions differently, HighWaterLine invited local communities to adapt HighWaterLine to their local regions. The overarching vision of HighWaterLine is to use art to visualize this otherwise hard to grasp climate change information.

Miami has a distinct vibrancy. It is unlike any other city in the country from its art deco hotels and restaurants to a thriving cultural diversity that leaves you feeling like you are in a different country. The HighWaterLine was a perfect fit for Miami.

Courtesy of Jayme Gershen

Limiting climate change will require substantial and sustained reductions of green house emissions and the President’s plan is on track to achieve meaningful reductions, while also placing a greater emphasis on helping our communities become more resilient.

The findings of this new report are clear: humans are causing climate change, we are already beginning to see the changes caused by climate change, the impacts are accelerating, and we can do something about if we act boldly.

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit

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