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100 Great Ideas is a massive community brainstorm where we rally the community to produce solutions to important regional issues. We then synthesize the trends and engage local leaders in implementing top ideas. 

On November 12th, we will launch our fifth campaign - this time focused on Climate Resilience & Sustainability.

For five days, everyone in the region is invited to post ideas, questions, articles, etc. responding to the question "What are your best ideas for making South Florida more sustainable and resilient?" Campaigns are solution-oriented, generative and collaborative - and you can participate from anywhere.

Thank you to our generous sponsors, NBCUniversal and The Miami Foundation, for partnering with us to launch this campaign. 

Want to learn more about the climate resilience and sustainability challenge in our community to prep your brain? If so, this backgrounder is for you (versions in Spanish and Haitian Creole). 


Backgrounder: Climate resilience and sustainability

Overview:

  • Summary & Glossary

  • Part I: How is our climate changing?

  • Part II: What are the environmental impacts of climate change?

  • Part III: How will climate change effect life in South Florida?

  • Part IV: What are humans doing that is causing climate change to happen?

  • Part V: Want to learn more?

SUMMARY

Did you know that given the current rate of climate change, 45% of South Florida is predicted to be submerged by 2100? This may seem far off, but we’re already experiencing many of the negative impacts of climate change. As humans, particularly just 100 companies globally, produce more greenhouse gases and our Earth and oceans warm, we experience many negative environmental impacts: hurricanes get more intense, natural ecosystems crumble, wildfires multiply and temperatures reach uninhabitable levels. These environmental changes affect all of us (and especially South Floridians): property floods, food prices skyrocket, disease and illness spread, people are pushed into homelessness, and our access to drinking water is threatened. Unfortunately, these effects, caused mainly by corporations, have the greatest effect on vulnerable and marginalized populations.

How did this situation come to be? Decades of unregulated pollution, an increasing population, and a growing reliance on electricity and fossil fuels all contribute to the production of greenhouse gases that trap heat in the Earth’s atmosphere and warm our environment and oceans. The United States has the highest per capita carbon emissions in the entire world and because we (the U.S.) and our leaders have not made a committed and concerted effort to control our emissions and live more sustainably, we contribute more and more to a changing climate each year.

So what is happening locally around this issue? Local governments have created policy, committees, and plans aimed at improving sustainability, and several non-profits are working on projects ranging from education to nature preservation. Many of these actions are a step in the right direction, but due to the extensive and urgent nature of its impacts, much more remains to be done.

What can you do to help tackle this challenge? Learn, educate, vote, and act. Join the 100 Great Ideas Facebook Group to dialogue and suggest ideas during our upcoming campaign from November 12th-16th, 2018.

GLOSSARY

Adaptation: Human adjustment in response to actual or expected climate change and its effects.

Climate Change: Changes in average weather conditions that persist over multiple decades or longer.

Climate Justice: Frames global warming as an ethical and political issue, not purely environmental; denotes that those least responsible for climate change suffer its gravest consequences.

Environmental Justice: The fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, class, etc. with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.

Fossil Fuels: A fossil fuel is a fuel formed by natural processes, such as decomposition of buried organisms. Fossil fuels include oil, coal, and natural gas. When burned, fossil fuels emit high levels of carbon dioxide.

Global Warming: The observed increase in average temperature near the Earth’s surface and in the lowest layer of the atmosphere.

Greenhouse Gases: Natural and industrial gases that trap heat from the Earth and warm the surface.

Mitigation: Actions taken to reduce the sources and causes of climate change.

Resilience: A capability to anticipate, prepare for, respond to, and bounce back from from significant multi-hazard threats with minimum damage to social well-being, the economy, and the environment.

Sustainability: Ways of existing that meet the needs of today without ruining the ability of future generations to meet their own needs, specifically with regard to use of natural resources. 

National Aeronautic and Space Administration (NASA): NASA is a United States government scientific agency that is responsible for science and technology related to our atmosphere and space.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA): NOAA is a United States government scientific agency that researches the Earth’s water, weather, climate, and atmosphere. 

What do we mean when we say “climate resilience and sustainability”?

Sustainability & Resilience Explanation Chart.png


part I. 

How is our climate changing?

We all know that the weather changes every day. Some summer days can be in the high 80s and humid, and others can hit 95 degrees and produce torrential rain. We also know that weather changes by season - in Florida, it gets hotter in the summer months and cooler in the winter. This is all a part of our observable, and expected, weather system.

What’s harder to see on a day-to-day basis is our changing climate. Climate is how the weather behaves over relatively long periods of time. While we expect daily weather patterns to change, and seasons to produce different types of weather, our climate should, stay steady over time.

Unfortunately, scientists have observed that our climate is not staying steady over time. Over the past 800,000 years, the average amount of CO2 in the atmosphere stayed about around 180-250 parts per million (ppm). Today, the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere has reached the highest in recorded history at 408 parts per million (ppm). The large uptick in emissions started at around the year 1850, the boom of the global Industrial Revolution.

 Source: https://www.cdc.gov/climateandhealth/effects/default.htm#factsheets

Source: https://www.cdc.gov/climateandhealth/effects/default.htm#factsheets

 Source: https://climate.nasa.gov/vital-signs/carbon-dioxide/

Source: https://climate.nasa.gov/vital-signs/carbon-dioxide/

 Source: http://www.environment.gov.au/climate-change/climate-science-data/climate-science/greenhouse-effect

Source: http://www.environment.gov.au/climate-change/climate-science-data/climate-science/greenhouse-effect

This changing climate is caused in large part by human activity — greenhouse gas emissions from cars, power plants, and other human activities are the primary cause.

97% of climate scientists agree the main cause of the current global warming trend is human strengthening of the "greenhouse effect" — warming that results when the atmosphere traps heat coming from Earth toward space.

This is more commonly known as global warming.

The graphic to the right demonstrates how global warming works. To learn more about this topic, we’d suggest visiting the following resources:

1) https://climate.nasa.gov/causes/

2) https://www.livescience.com/37743-greenhouse-effect.html

3) https://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/outreach/carbon_toolkit/basics.html


Part II:

What are the impacts of climate change?

We know that the climate is changing, but what effect is that having on our world  - and South Florida in particular? First and foremost, climate change is causing major changes in two systems: oceans, which are warming up and becoming more acidic, and our atmosphere, which is becoming hotter over time. As the oceans and atmosphere change, we witness all kinds of secondary impacts - each of which change our daily lives.

Humans produce GGHs.png

Our Oceans

As our climate gets warmer, the ocean really “takes the heat” - it absorbs 93 percent of the excess heat produced in global warming and 30 percent of the global CO2 excess. This causes ocean temperatures to rise (they’ve risen 0.13 degrees F every decade since 1901) and the water to become more acidic (the pH of surface ocean waters has fallen by 0.1 pH units). These changes have many secondary effects:

  • Sea Level Rise: As ocean water warms, it expands and melts land ice (ice sheets and glaciers), which leads to sea level rise. The Antarctic ice sheet has lost nearly 3 trillion metric tons of ice from 1992 to 2017 because of these warmer temperatures. The continent’s ice is shrinking at an unprecedented rate and because the ice sheets hold the vast majority of the planet’s freshwater, theoretically, if they melted entirely, sea level worldwide would rise by 190 feet. Sea levels along the Florida coast are predicted to rise 16-80 inches over the next 50-100 years. Rising seas have many negative impacts:

    • Property destruction: Current projections put between $15 billion and $23 billion of existing Florida property underwater by 2050.

    • Salt-water intrusion: Increases in sea level will push the salt-front line further inland and closer to drinking water wells, threatening the region’s fresh water supply.

    • Erosion: When sea levels rise rapidly, as they have been doing, even a small increase can have devastating effects on coastal habitats. As seawater reaches farther inland, it can cause destructive erosion, wetland flooding, soil contamination, and lost habitat for fish, birds, and plants. When large storms hit land, higher sea levels mean bigger, more powerful storm surges that can strip away everything in their path. Half of the 825 miles of beaches monitored by the state’s Department of Environmental Protection are designated as critically eroding.

    • Sewage: Sea level rise does not only affect Floridians living on or near the coast. Because Florida sits on a porous plateau of limestone, made of compressed ancient reefs that are full of tiny holes, sea level rise also reaches people from below. When water levels rise, water rises through the ground leading to flooding and causing septic tanks to break down and overflow. When this happens, septic tanks cannot filter and clean the human waste that goes into them and as a result, it flows into the streets and also into the aquifers where we get our drinking water. There are about 90,000 septic tanks throughout Miami-Dade County.

  • Increasing Intensity of Hurricanes and Other Extreme Weather Events: Scientists predict that hurricanes will become wetter and more intense due to warming seas. Last year’s Hurricanes Irma and Harvey, two of the strongest and most costly storms in Florida’s history, had a combined total losses of $200 billion. Florida ranks second in the nation with $3.2 trillion of insured U.S. coastal properties at-risk to hurricanes. Eight of the 10 costliest hurricanes in U.S. history have impacted Florida. Six of these storms occurred within just two years: 2004 and 2005. In addition, Florida has already seen an increasing amount of other extreme weather events: in 2011 alone, Florida broke 34 heat records, 27 rainfall records, and experienced cases of extreme drought in multiple counties.

  • Toxic Algae Blooms: Rising water temperatures, in addition to mismanagement of water and fertilizer runoff, contribute to harmful algae blooms (a.k.a red tide), which can sicken — and even kill — fish, shellfish, marine animals, and birds, as well as cause serious illness in humans who swim in the infected waters. Since October 2017, the Southeast coast of Florida has been experiencing one of the deadliest ‘red tides’ in history, and many Florida shellfish harvesting areas are still shut down due to the risk of ‘Neurotoxic Shellfish Poisoning’ in humans who consume contaminated shellfish. This has a serious economic impact: lobster, crab, shrimp, and other invertebrates are worth over $231 million to the South Florida industry. This year, 267 tons of marine life (100 manatees, a dozen dolphins, thousands of fish, 300 sea turtles and more) have died or washed along shores due to harmful algae blooms.

  • Declining Coral Reefs: In the past three years, 25 reefs—3/4 of the world’s reefs—experienced severe bleaching events because of extremely high acid levels in the ocean. Coral reefs are important for many reasons: 1) many drugs (including antiviral drug AZT and the anticancer agent Ara-C) are developed from coral reef animals and plants, 2) healthy reefs contribute to local economies through tourism like diving tours, fishing trips, hotels, restaurants, etc. (the Florida Keys reefs alone are estimated to have an asset value of $2.7 billion), 3) in developing countries, coral reefs contribute about 1/4 of the total fish catch, which provides critical food resources for tens of millions of people, and 4) coral reefs protect shorelines from waves and prevent erosion, property damage, and loss of life.

  • Marine Life Impacts: Many species, including manatees, turtles, and various types of fish, are being forced to migrate to find the water temperature conditions they need to feed and reproduce. Displacements of marine life have an impact on fisheries and the larger ecosystem. Both ocean warming and acidification harms coral, plankton, shellfish and other species that play an important role in the ocean’s food chain, so when one species suffers, all suffer.

Our Atmosphere

Our environment is rapidly warming. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is at its highest level ever and 17 of the 18 warmest years in recorded history have occurred since 2001. Not only was 2016 the warmest year on record, but eight of the 12 months that make up the year — from January through September, with the exception of June — were the warmest on record for those respective months. A warming environment has many negative impacts:

  • Dangerously Hot Weather: Extreme heat is already occurring more frequently than it did 60 years ago—and scientists expect heat waves to become more frequent and severe as global warming intensifies. This increase in heat waves creates serious health risks and can lead to heat exhaustion, heat stroke, aggravate existing medical conditions and even slow your cognitive abilities. The heat also expands the habitat of mosquitos leading to greater risk of insect borne diseases. In the year 2100, under the highest (A1FI) scenario, we expect that nearly all Florida citizens will be at high risk of heat-related illness. Check out how the temperature in your hometown has increased over time here.

  • Increased Precipitation: As temperatures increase, more rain falls during the heaviest downpours, which increases the risk of flooding events. Very heavy precipitation events, defined as the heaviest one percent of storms, now drop 67 percent more precipitation in the Northeast, 31 percent more in the Midwest, and 15 percent more in the Great Plains than they did 50 years ago. Over the next 50 years, there is an overall expected 10 percent increase in precipitation in Florida. Heavier rainfall results in stronger hurricanes, flooding, and higher sea level rise. Floods also often cause massive overflows of untreated sewage into streams, rivers, bays, canals, and even streets and homes.

  • Wildfires: Wildfires are increasing and wildfire season is getting longer in the U.S. as temperatures rise. Higher spring and summer temperatures and earlier spring snowmelt result in forests that are hotter and drier for longer periods of time, which primes conditions for wildfires to start and spread. In 2018 so far, there have been 1,728 wildfires that have burned a total of 125,540 acres in the state of Florida. More than 5.3 million people living in Florida or 28 percent of the state's population are living in areas at elevated risk of wildfire.

  • Drought: As temperatures have warmed, the prevalence and length of drought has increased. Drought ranks second in terms of national weather-related economic impacts, with annual losses nearing $9 billion per year in the U.S. Drought threatens drinking and agricultural industry water supplies and can even contribute to increased food prices. Drought effects Florida differently depending on the year, and due to our high precipitation rate, we often do not experience the effects of drought as dramatically as some other U.S. states. Though, during certain periods of the year and in other places across the country, drought deeply affects the food and water sources we rely on.


Part III:

How will climate change Affect life in South Florida?

Although only 48% of South Floridians believe that climate change will affect them personally, our region has more residents at risk from climate change than any other US state.

Florida’s cities, natural ecosystems, and those who live in coastal counties (98% of the state’s population) have already experienced dangerous effects of our rapidly shifting global climate and these effects (including rising seas and higher temperatures) are only expected to grow more rapidly in impact and pace. By 2050, if unregulated, Florida is projected to experience 130+ heat wave days a year, have an additional 1.1 million people and 5300 square miles at risk due to sea level rise, and suffer a $354 billion dollar loss, the biggest financial fallout from climate change.

While scientists are not able to perfectly predict the impacts of climate change, we can expect severe social, economic, and geographical effects if we continue down the our current path of essentially unregulated pollution. Some of these effects are:

  • Public Health Effects: The Florida Clinicians for Climate Action report that the shifting climate has led to greater exposure to heat stroke, severe weather injuries, insect-borne diseases like Zika virus, and respiratory diseases such as asthma and allergies. The elderly, the very young, and those living in poverty are most at risk.

  • Access to Clean Water: South Florida’s clean water supply is at-risk from sea level rise, flooding and extreme weather. Sea water is coming over sea walls, up through storm drains and even into wells necessary for clean drinking water, causing ‘salt-water intrusion.’ The Biscayne Aquifer, where much of South Florida’s clean groundwater gets filtered and stored, is already being polluted by sewage runoff and other contaminants because of sea level rise. Broward County, within 50 years, expects to lose 41 percent of its coastal well field capacity to the underground push of saltwater.

  • At-risk Populations: The impact of climate change weighs heavily on low-income families and communities of color. Buying products and services to protect themselves and their property, recovering from damage done by extreme weather events and paying to prevent and manage increased health concerns are major, often unaffordable, financial tasks. “Climate gentrification,” where low-income residents are being pushed out of higher elevation zones in South Florida, is also occurring putting these populations at further risk. In the face of extreme weather, 60% of households who live in financial instability in Miami-Dade lack enough savings to live above the federal poverty level for three or more months in a row, which makes it significantly more challenging to deal with the financial impacts of massive storms. Additionally, people with disabilities are amongst the most at-risk during natural disasters, experiencing extremely hard times fleeing their homes and difficulty keeping live-saving technology charged and working. 80% of people with disabilities reported hardship or inability to evacuate.

  • Homelessness/Displaced Refugees: By 2100, more than 2.5 million Miamians would be forced to move out of their homes due to flooded property. By 2100, about 1 in 10 homes in Florida will face flooding every other day. That puts Florida at the top of the list nationwide for homes at risk.

  • Ruined/Destroyed Economies: Florida's tourism industry alone could lose $178 billion annually by 2100. When climate-affected sectors are impacted, nearly 400,000 jobs in the transportation, utilities, and tourism industries will be at risk— many of which are depended on by low- and middle-income families. An increase in dangerous air pollutants and algae blooms that suffocate fish, coupled with a decrease in crop productivity due to drought will put agriculture and fishing industries at risk as well.


Part IV:

What are humans doing that is causing climate change to happen?

There are multiple ways humans are contributing to global climate change. Here are just a few:

Fossil Fuels

  • Industrialization: Just 100 companies have been the source of more than 70% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions since 1988. Half of these global industrial emissions can be traced to just 25 corporate and state-owned entities.

  • Car and Plane Emissions: In 2016, our modern transit culture (usage of cars, trucks, ships, trains, and planes) was responsible for about 28% of U.S. emissions. In 2016, transportation accounted for 35% of Florida emissions.

  • Electricity: Electricity production releases enormous amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. 28.4% of U.S. emissions come from the creation of electricity; 63% of this electricity production is from fossil fuels (coal, natural gas, petroleum, and other gases), 20% is from nuclear energy, and only 17% is from renewable energy sources. Florida emitted 217.6 million metric tons of carbon dioxide related to electricity use in 2013.

  • Buildings: A large portion of emissions comes from the construction and maintenance of buildings. Producing concrete and steel for the construction of buildings emits carbon dioxide and air-conditioning and heating require immense amounts of electricity and natural gas respectively. Water heating, lighting, refrigeration, televisions, clothing dryers, computers and dishwashers all also contribute to the 1,374 Billion kilowatts of energy consumed in 2017 in the US.

  • Fossil Fuel Processing: Extracting, processing, transporting, and distributing fossil fuels also releases greenhouse gases. These releases can be on purpose and can also result from accidents, poor maintenance, and small leaks in well heads, pipe fittings, and pipelines.

Human Consumption/Agriculture

  • Manure: The second-most dangerous greenhouse gas after carbon dioxide, methane, is produced by cattle, dairy cows, goats, sheep, pigs, etc. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas 28 to 36 times better at trapping heat than CO2. In 2010, South Florida produced approximately 14.4 million metric tons of emissions from agriculture.

  • Livestock: Livestock farming also has a vast environmental footprint. Livestock farming contributes 18% of human-produced greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. Meat production is also highly inefficient. To produce approximately 2 pounds of beef requires 55 pounds of grain and roughly 4,000 gallons of water. The scale of the problem can also be seen in land use: around 30% of the earth’s land surface is currently used for livestock farming.

  • Landfills: Landfill gas (LFG), which is roughly 50 percent methane and 50 percent carbon dioxide, is produced as organic material in landfills (things that can decompose like food and plants, not plastic) decomposes.

  • Plastic: Approximately three tons of carbon dioxide is emitted for each ton of plastic (polyethylene) produced. Worldwide, we consume approximately 100 million tons of plastic each year which equals anywhere from 300-500 million tons of carbon dioxide emitted just to produce the plastic.

  • Chemical Fertilizers: Increase in usage of chemical fertilizers on croplands creates nitrogen oxide, a deadly greenhouse gas (nitrogen oxides have 300 times more heat-trapping capacity than carbon dioxide) and the run-off of excess fertilizers creates ‘dead-zones,’ areas where no marine animals or plants can live in our oceans. It also destroys the stratospheric ozone, which protects the planet from harmful ultraviolet rays. Since the year 1750, nitrous oxide levels have risen 20 percent – from below 270 parts per billion (ppb) to more than 320 ppb.

Land Use/Deforestation

  • Forest Fires: When forests are burned, they release huge amounts of carbon into the atmosphere and in addition, because the forests no longer exist, they are no longer available to absorb CO2.

  • Land Usage: The use of forests, marshes and swamps for fuel (both wood and for charcoal), wood and paper products, livestock grazing, and commodity production contributes to the mass deforestation of our world. Because of human intrusion, the Everglades in Florida has shrunk to one-third of its original size, from 3 million acres in 1947 to 1 million acres today.

  • Air Quality: Illegal logging, mining, and natural disasters threaten Earth’s most important assets. Each year, 18.7 million acres of forests are lost due to deforestation, that is equivalent to 27 soccer fields every minute. It is estimated that forests and other land vegetation produce 40 percent of the earth's oxygen and remove up to 30 percent of human carbon dioxide emissions from the atmosphere even though they cover only about 6 percent of the land. Without a determined local and global effort to protect the landscape and biodiversity of the “the world’s lungs,” it will continue to decline.


Part V:

Local efforts to build a more resilient and sustainable community

The harsh realities of climate change (the current and future effects of rising sea levels, warmer temperatures, stronger storms) are tough to imagine. Yet the facts are very clear: we must both act to prevent climate change AND prepare for the inevitable reality that we will face significant climate change impacts. Leaders and organizations all across Miami-Dade County and South Florida have already started to act by drafting and implementing solutions that lead to a more climate resilience and sustainable community. Much work remains to be done, but here are a few of the actions that have already been taken:

Policy and Research

  • In 1993, the county signed on to a Long-term CO2 Reduction Plan that identified energy use, transportation, land use, and solid waste as the primary contributors to climate change locally and implemented strategies to reduce Miami-Dade County’s carbon footprint. Implementation of the Plan from 1993 to 2006 resulted in an estimated total reduction of approximately 34 million tons of CO2.

  • In 2006, the Board of County Commissioners established the Miami-Dade County Climate Change Advisory Task Force (CCATF). The CCATF serves as an advisory board to the Board of County Commissioners and is charged with identifying potential future climate change impacts to Miami-Dade County and providing recommendations to respond these impacts. The Mayor and the Board are responsible for making the final decisions to accept and implement the CCATF recommendations. A list of their previous recommendations and their most recent report on sea level rise can be found here and here.

  • In 2013, the Board of County Commissioners created the Sea Level Rise Task Force to review relevant data, studies, and reports regarding the potential impact of sea level rise and provide a comprehensive and realistic assessment of the likely and potential impacts of sea level rise and storm surge over time. The task force published their report and recommendations in 2014.

  • In 2015, many community organizers including Miami Climate Alliance, led to the creation of The Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities program and Resilient 305, a tri-municipality partnership between Miami Dade County, City of Miami, and County of Miami Beach. This led to the creation of Chief Resilience Officer (CRO) positions, James Murley, Jane Gilbert and Susanne Torriente respectively, at all three municipalities and creation of Resilience departments at County of Miami and MDC. CROs work in conjunction to develop strategic resiliency plans that help Greater Miami and the Beaches prepare for, withstand, and bounce back from ‘shocks’ – catastrophic events like hurricanes, fires, and floods – and ‘stresses’ – like affordable housing, homelessness, and unemployment.

  • In 2010, Broward, Miami-Dade, Monroe, and Palm Beach Counties united to form the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact as a way to work, across county lines, to solve our regional climate related problems. Together, first in 2012 and again in 2017, the compact published the Regional Climate Action Plan (RCAP). The Compact also holds an annual Summit which Miami-Dade will host this year on October 24-25, 2018, at the Miami Beach Convention Center.

  • Miami-Dade County participates in the U.S. Cool Counties Program, which means the County has agreed to pursue the regional goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 80 percent of 2008 levels by 2050 and of achieving 20 percent of Florida's energy from renewable sources by 2020.  

  • Miami-Dade County has developed and published multiple reports as part of their GreenPrint plan: different strategies set out to solve regional climate-change related issues and build a more sustainable community. The most notable are the GreenPrint plan (2010), the GreenPrint Progress Report (2014), and the Climate Change Action Plan (2018).

Miami-Dade County has provided a comprehensive list of policies and legislation related to climate change: check it out here.

Education

  • The CLEO Institute is a organization dedicated to climate change education, engagement, and advocacy. CLEO puts on trainings, workshops, and forums to teach the science and urgency of climate change and to brainstorm solutions and innovations for climate action. If you or your organization are interested in scheduling a CLEO training, sign up here.

  • Dream In Green assists diverse organizations in reducing their environmental footprint and develops, implements and oversees educational programs and workshops that promote environmentally sustainable behaviors among all age groups, with a particular emphasis on K-12 students. To date, their programs have served 330 schools and over 90,000 individuals, roughly 74,000 of which were K-12 students. Their partner schools have helped to conserve 26.1 million kilowatt hours of electricity and reduced or offset 39.9 million pounds of carbon emissions.

  • In 2017, the Board of County Commissioners adopted a resolution (170549) directing the Mayor’s office to development and air educational material about sea level rise on Miami-Dade TV, the County’s television station.

  • Catalyst Miami has run five cohorts of their CLEAR (Community Leadership on the Environment, Advocacy, and Resilience) Miami program. CLEAR provides youth, teens and adults a groundwork to become climate resilience educators, leaders, and innovators in their own communities and beyond.

  • In 2017, the Board of County Commissioners adopted a resolution (170285)  directing the Mayor’s office to coordinate with the school board to establish an Eco-Lab to engage students on issues related to sustainability and resilience.

Public Transit

  • By building, improving and supporting public transportation infrastructure, particularly one that invests in transit beyond fossil fuel usage, is an important step our County has taken in the fight against climate change. Adding more buses, especially natural gas and electric busses and expanding bike lanes and sharing-programs are vital steps our County has taken towards lowering our greenhouse gas emissions. Read more about what Miami-Dade Transit is doing to reduce our ecological footprint here.

Solar Panels/Green Energy

  • Solar United Neighbors of Florida is an organization dedicated to representing the needs and interests of solar owners and clean energy supporters. They’re a community of people building a new energy system with rooftop solar at the cornerstone. They help people go solar, join together, and fight for their energy rights.

  • In 2017, South Miami passed a new law requiring all new homes built in the city to have solar panels, the first such measure in Florida. Florida ranks 3rd in the U.S. for its potential to generate energy from solar power but is only 17th in actual solar power production.

  • PACE is a program for Miami-Dade County homeowners, businesses and industries interested in solar panels, hurricane windows and other energy saving upgrades that allows property owners to receive upfront financing for the improvements, then repay the debt through voluntary assessments on their property tax bills. University of Central Florida’s Florida Solar Energy Center (FSEC) concluded that a 9-Kilowatt solar system can save a homeowner about $1,500 per year.

  • Every year, Miami-Dade County residents pay an additional $27 million on their electricity bills to Florida Power & Light (FPL), which then gets passed through to the County. This pass-through tax was set up in 1989 through the County's contract, aka franchise agreement, with FPL. Several Miami climate advocacy groups, led by Catalyst Miami and Miami Climate Alliance, have created a coalition, Miamians for Energy Freedom, aimed at urging elected officials to stand up for Miami-Dade County residents by reforming this contract to provide significant community benefits and helps propel us to a more renewable and affordable energy future.

Advocacy

  • Miami Climate Alliance, founded in 2015, is a coalition of organizations and individuals (including community leaders, students, staff of social justice organizations, environmentalists, scientists, teachers, and climate activists) working to prioritize climate justice in South Florida. They work for equity and resilience by activating community through strategic action, increasing understanding of climate change and sea level rise as threats to all forms of justice, and building urgency around community well-being.

  • At their inauguration in 2015, the Miami Climate Alliance came together to organize the Miami People’s Climate March. Every year since, they continue to organize frontline community groups, and hundreds of thousands of others, to march together voicing the need for strong and swift action to prevent the worst impacts of climate change. In 2018, they organized Miami Rising for Climate Jobs and Justice at Bayfront Park.

Flood Prevention

  • Miami Beach is currently implementing a 10-year, $500 million program to prevent flooding on the island through use of water pumps, higher roads, an updated stormwater system, and new construction regulations mandating elevated buildings. The plans are currently under review by a commission made up of nine professionals in engineering, real estate, urban planning and other fields under the guidance of the Urban Land Institute, an international land use and real estate organization. The commission’s work is funded by the Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities initiative. Read Miami Beach’s Flood Awareness Guide here.

  • In 2017, 55 percent of Miami’s electorate voted in favor of a $400 million Miami Forever general obligation bond. This vote gave government officials the ability to borrow money on the municipal bond market, leveraging a new property tax to pay for upgrades, grants and other government initiatives. The plan is to spend $192 million on storm drain upgrades, flood pumps and sea walls to curb flooding, $100 million for affordable housing and economic development, $78 million for parks and cultural facilities, $23 million for road improvements and $7 million for public safety.

Insurance

  • The City of Miami Beach participates in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) which makes flood insurance available to all building owners and renters. 93% of buildings in Miami Beach are located in the Special Flood Hazard Area which means insurance is required for buildings with federally backed mortgages. The city participates in the National Flood Insurance Program Community Rating System and their score currently saves residents 20% on their flood insurance premiums – an estimated $6 million annually. The National Flood Insurance Program rates are governed by federal legislation.

More Green Space

  • Urban Paradise Guild organizes volunteers to add native plants, create new habitats and protect human infrastructure with the goal of bringing natural habitat back to the places where we live and building a world where the human and natural worlds blend more harmoniously. If you or your organization are interested in volunteering, check out how here.

  • The Adopt-a-Tree program provides Miami-Dade single-family or duplex homeowners with two free trees every year. More than 200,000 trees have been adopted since the program's inception in 2001.

  • Currently in Miami-Dade County, community gardens are allowed in the 12 areas designated as Urban Center Districts.

  • The Parks and Open Space Master Plan promotes county development of green spaces, greenways, blueways, and trails. The plan guides county development with the goal of creating a seamless, sustainable system of parks, recreation and conservation spaces.

Building Efficiency

  • Miami-Dade County is integrating a new initiative, Building Efficiency 305 (BE305), to increase energy and water efficiency in large public and private buildings countywide. The goals of the program are to: 1) help property owners with better energy and water management 2) expand access to financing tools 3) assist our most vulnerable neighborhoods by reducing utility cost burdens 4) gather data to increase awareness and inform decision making 5) reduce water supply constraints and preserve a critical natural resource, and 6) support building code training and education.

    • Once fully implemented, BE305 is projected to have the following annual countywide outcomes:

      • $200 million in energy and water bill savings

      • 1.2 million metric ton reduction in climate pollution emissions

      • 38 million gallon reduction in water usage

  • EnergyCAP is a tool available to the County which helps manage energy consumption. The tool compares all County buildings’ energy consumption and helps prioritize retrofits.

Green Building

  • The Sustainable Buildings Program established the incorporation of sustainable development building measures into the design, construction, renovation and maintenance of County-owned, County-financed and County-operated buildings.

  • The Green Building Expedited Plan Review is a Miami-Dade County program that expedites energy efficient and eco-friendly construction to promote sustainable development in our communities.

  • The County's Sustainability Plan, GreenPrint, has been developed to integrate with existing County Plans, to ensure county development is sustainable and eco-friendly.

County Operations

  • Miami-Dade County has the third largest public hybrid fleet in the nation. Hybrids result in annual cost savings of over $200,000, annual fuel reductions of 27,000 gallons of unleaded gasoline, and annual reductions of carbon dioxide equivalents in the amount of 270 tons. Miami-Dade’s hybrid fleet includes: 638 hybrid electric vehicles, 116 diesel/electric hybrid transit buses, 2 plug-in electric vehicles and 64 hydraulic hybrid garbage trucks

  • Miami-Dade County is upgrading their recycling program to single-stream, where all recyclable goods are placed in one cart. This has resulted in a tremendous increase in recycling participation.

Artificial Reefs

  • To support our tourism and fishing industries, and keep our ecosystems healthy, the Miami-Dade County Artificial Reef Program was established in 1981. The Miami-Dade County program is regarded as the largest program of its kind in Florida, which leads the nation in number of established artificial reef sites. Presently the program seeks to provide in three areas: 1) habitat restoration and enhancement 2) fisheries management and 3) increase recreational diving opportunities


part VI.

Want to Learn More?

Climate Resilience & Sustainability is a complex issue with a long and complicated history. In addition to links provided throughout this backgrounder, we suggest visiting the following resources if you want to learn more: 

The following organizations are actively tackling issues of climate resilience & sustainability in Miami and South Florida. Visit their websites and social media accounts for information and updates:


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If you have questions, comments or suggestions on the presentation of this background information, please contact Sarah Emmons at s@radicalpartners.net.

This backgrounder is an evolving resource and will incorporate new information as appropriate. We do not consider ourselves experts on this topic, but rather are excited to leverage our ability as community-gatherers to showcase research in this area and bring the community together to find solutions. 

Many thanks to the following organizations and individuals who helped develop this information and edit this resource:

  • Zelalem Adefris, Climate Resilience Director at Catalyst Miami

  • Alissa Farina, Special Projects Coordinator at the City of Miami Office of Resilience & Sustainability

  • Dara Schoenwald, Co-Founder of VolunteerCleanup.org

  • Jeremy Klavans, Graduate Student Researcher at University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science

  • Linda Cheung, Founder of Before It’s Too Late

  • Barbara Martinez-Guerrero, Executive Director of Dream in Green