The American Resilience Roadtrip: Miami-Dade County Builds Resilience to Climate Impacts

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The American Resilience Roadtrip series follows concerned citizen Ben Colombo on a year-long, 50-state tour to find out how city governments, citizen groups, nonprofits, and others are making their communities more sustainable, more resilient, and better served. Follow Ben and ICLEI USA on Twitter and Instagram as we discover a more sustainable, more compassionate USA thriving at the ground level.

In the consciousness of the American public, perhaps no place is associated with climate change more than Miami-Dade County in southeast Florida. Images of king tides flooding the streets of Miami Beach, fears over Zika, and dire warnings about impending sea level rise have all featured prominently in the national press.

The scientific consensus is that the region is one of the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change in the entire country and with a quick glance at a topographical map, it is easy to see why. The good news is that Miami-Dade is not sitting still. Far from it!

Resilience Work in Miami-Dade

Visiting the Miami-Dade County Office of Resilience several weeks ago, I had the opportunity to sit down for an inspiring conversation with Chief Resilience Officer, Jim Murley and Deputy Resilience Officer, Nichole Hefty. Jim and Nichole are veterans of the debates that have taken place at the intersection of climate science and public policy over the past three decades and the work that they are doing, alongside their colleagues, continues to push Miami-Dade towards a more sustainable and resilient future.

Grounded in science and working in partnership with the relevant agencies, the Miami-Dade County Office of Resilience has authored significant reports on the impacts of flooding and saltwater intrusion, insurance and risk management and potential approaches to developing an enhanced capital plan for the County, to name just a few.

Currently, they are working on updating a Regional Climate Action Plan, as part of the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Compact, which, when complete, will help policy makers further incorporate resilience considerations into their planning activities.

Miami Beach Prepares for Climate Impacts

A short drive across Biscayne Bay brought me to Miami Beach, where I was able to spend time with Flavia Tonioli and Yani Pineda and hear about the multitude of sustainability-related projects that the city has already implemented and is currently working on.

If Miami-Dade County is on the frontlines of feeling the impacts of climate change in the country, Miami Beach is already deep into enemy territory. King tides, saltwater intrusion and the full range of impacts from rising seas are parts of daily life in Miami Beach and the City feels an acute responsibility to act aggressively, both to mitigate their impact, but also to ensure that it is sustainable as possible.

The full range of work they have underway could not possibly be captured in this short post, but I was particularly interested to hear about the city’s commitment to improve its impact on water quality, while simultaneously dealing with the increasing challenges of water inundation.

The regular collection of data on emissions, energy efficiency and all their programs is also a key component of the City’s efforts to ensure its actions are grounded in science, a critical lesson for municipalities across the country.

In short, while Miami-Dade is facing many serious climate-related challenges, my visit to some of the people on the frontlines left me heartened and optimistic about the future.

Ben Colombo is a Senior Vice President at a New York based CEO advisory firm. He is inspired by the critical role that local governments and organizations are playing to address sustainability and resilience issues across the United States and is proud to partner with ICLEI USA on The American Resilience Roadtrip.


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