What causes most of the erosion in Florida

Tourism: Impending climate change: Miami will soon be up to its neck

Alton Road, the main artery of tourism in Miami Beach is once again under water. Businessmen pack sandbags in front of the entrances to their shops, passers-by take off their shoes and wade barefoot through the water. Just a few blocks away from the Atlantic, climate change and rising sea levels are not exotic orchid themes here.

According to a study by the US government, Miami is one of the cities most threatened by climate change. The vacationer's paradise Florida with its world-famous sandy beaches is in danger. By 2060, sea levels are projected to rise by 60 centimeters, said Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine before the Senate Science Committee. "These predictions are alarming, especially for Miami Beach, which is just 1.3 meters above sea level."

Unlike many of their counterparts in the rest of the US - especially the Conservative Republicans - Levine and other Florida politicians are convinced of the reality of climate change. You don't have time to be skeptical, it's about survival. More and more often Miami's streets are flooded by the tides, the water table rises.

Extreme weather events such as cyclones and floods also seem to be increasing in number and intensity. It's a vicious circle: "Rising sea levels increase the effects of cyclones," explains Piers Sellers of the NASA space agency to the senators. Erosion also threatens the miles of beaches around Miami.

Of course, this also has an impact on tourism, the main industry in the region. In 2013, 14.2 million people visited Miami and spent the equivalent of around 17 billion euros. 45 percent said they came to Miami Beach for the beaches and great nightlife. "The future of Miami Beach and other coastal cities is uncertain," warned Mayor Levine.

Climate expert Fred Bloetscher from Florida Atlantic University warns against building the lowest lying areas further and calls for an adaptation of the pump systems and infrastructure. "Groundwater rises with sea level. If we also factor in the effects of summer rains, water management becomes an absolute priority."

The numbers are worrying: In southeast Florida alone, six million people and real estate worth 3.7 billion dollars (2.8 billion euros) are affected, according to Bloetscher. The voters have also recognized this: 71 percent are worried about climate change, according to a survey by the environmental organization Natural Resources Defense Council.

There are gubernatorial elections in November. The democratic challenger Charlie Christ has made environmental protection his central election campaign issue. Incumbent Rick Scott, on the other hand, has little to do with it. "I'm not a scientist," says the Republican. He doesn't think the rising temperatures have anything to do with people's activities.

Other Miami's politicians don't want to wait for a change of heart. 300 million dollars (224 million euros) are to be invested in environmental projects in the coming years. The Americans have also got help from the Netherlands to expand their network of dams.

There is hope of dry feet on Alton Road, which is just 85 centimeters above sea level. A 32 million dollar (24 million euros) pumping station for the street is to be completed by the end of the year - with this one wants to master the problem of constant flooding. (dpa)

US government climate report

Dr Bloetscher in front of the Climate Committee (eng.)