Rising Sea Levels May Present Risk To Our Coasts, Infrastructure and Economy


Steven Hilding Former Rubio State Leadership Team member
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It has been said that a rising tide lifts all boats. Which is great, if you have a boat. For most of us, it’s a problem.

In fact, the saying has crossed the threshold from metaphor into reality for far too many people. Tides are rising higher and higher these days, creating major problems for residents and businesses anywhere near the coast.

The idea that there is a fixed tideline that does not retreat or advance over time is not borne out by history or science, and the line is currently advancing inland on America’s coasts. We must recognize this reality and deal with it head-on.

To illustrate this point in terms of direct impact: the water levels around America’s coasts have crept up over six inches since 1950, with almost half of that total rise occurring in the last 20 years. The effects have been a 200-percent increase in flooding and an even greater risk in some states like Florida where flooding has increased by 400 percent.

These are the facts, and fortunately, a few conservative leaders in Congress, such as Rep. Carlos Curbelo and Rep. Scott Taylor, have recognized the problem and are working to stem the tide of sea level rise. Both are members of the Seawall Coalition, an organization that calls for national solutions and funding to attack sea level rise, and both are actively searching for long-term solutions to the problem.

It would be great if more members of Congress, particularly those who represent districts that are impacted by sea level rise, such as Rep. Francis Rooney and my hometown congressman, Vern Buchanan, would follow Curbelos’s lead and join the Seawall Coalition, as well.

Some roads and bridges will have to be raised. Innovators will have to come up with better ways to protect our coastal areas. New building codes and engineering norms will need to be debated and implemented. And new freshwater wells will have to be dug as the sea pushes in further. Each of these projects will cost money, and it should start at the top: with the federal government.

Any realistic effort should include plans at the federal level, such as grant programs to encourage new technology for flood relief and natural solutions to sea level rise, and developing minimum building standards that account for the new reality that the sea level will be rising for decades to come. Part of the discussion also needs to include pinpointing exactly where and how we are going to push back with some aggressive infrastructure engineering.

It’s nice to see some legislators waking up to the hard facts of sea level rise. But it’s odd that during a time when both parties theoretically agree that we need a major infrastructure overhaul, fighting to combat the worsening effects of sea level rise is not a more prominent government priority. It certainly ought to be. Our coasts, infrastructure and economy depend on it.

Steven Hilding is a former member of the State Leadership Team for Sen. Marco Rubio’s re-election campaign in 2016.  

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.