The governor of Florida, Rick Scott has not been very vocal about climate change. This is unfortunate given that the state of Florida could potentially suffer greatly in the face of the rising sea levels reported by some scientists. Not only that, but his $9.2 million mansion is only 200 feet away from the ocean and one foot above current sea level. Are rising sea levels in Florida a threat to Governor Scott’s beach mansion?
When the New York Times asked Scott about what his state is doing to prepare for a rising sea level, the governor did not respond. When a television station from Palm Beach asked similar questions, Scott’s only answer was that the emergency management division would be handling all flood problems. This was just one day after the Third National Climate Change Assessment report was released earlier this month. According to the report, Florida and the rest of the Southeast are “exceptionally vulnerable” to rising sea levels. Due to the region’s low elevations and porous foundations, South Florida was found to be uniquely vulnerable.
Scott told the Tampa Bay Times that his multi-milion dollar Naples beach house is not under any threat from sea level rise. He explained that even though he is no scientist, he can say that the state of Florida is going to continue making the investments that take care of their environment. He added, “We love living here.”
The stretch of land where Scott’s mansion is on has seen eight to nine inches of sea level rise over the last 100 years. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), three of those inches were between the years 1965 and 2006. Another 11 inches are projected by 2050.
While that may not sound like much, consider the flatness of the state of Florida. Just an increase of a few inches will mean that the water will push even further inland. According to Jim Beever, who works for the Southwest Florida Regional Planning Council, the sea level rise causes beach erosion and other problematic issues.
The more immediate threat for the Florida Governor’s beach mansion is not so much the slowly rising sea levels but the rapidly increasing storm surge. Though not always the case, storm surges often accompany hurricanes and tropical storms. Beever describes a situation where the water would flow in from two directions. Some would push in from the Gulf of Mexico, while more water would come in from the road. That is because the road in front of his house has a lower elevation than the house. It would flood and then spill over to the foundation of the house.
Governor Scott’s beach house is not the only one in danger in Naples. A 2012 report entitled Surging Seas, compiled by Climate Central, a nonprofit group based in New Jersey, cited 11,000 homes that were vulnerable to flooding by the year 2030. This is due to the rise in sea level tripling the chance of storm surges. At a website called Surging Seas, non-scientists are able to study maps, forecasts, analyses and comparisons all with the help of easy to read and understand maps and graphs. As Beever puts it, belief in climate change may be an option, but participation will be mandatory.
Governor Scott has said that $130 million has been spent by the Florida’s Division of Emergency Management for flood protection. This number was indeed confirmed by his office. Whether that will be enough to ameliorate a possible natural disaster due to climate change, only time will tell. Governor Scott’s beach mansion may be under threat of rising sea levels in Florida, but perhaps he has a plan in place that he has not yet revealed.
by Stacy Lamy