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Oceans

Invest in Smart Natural Solutions to Counter Changing Climate

by

Kathy Baughman McLeod, Rebecca Scheurer

Managing Director, Coastal Risk & Resilience at The Nature Conservancy ; Director, Red Cross Global Disaster Preparedness Center

June 2016

Oysters grow on the mangrove coastline of Charlotte Harbor Estuary near Punta Gorda, Florida located on the Gulf of Mexico. Photo © Carlton Ward Jr/TNC
Oysters grow on the mangrove coastline of Charlotte Harbor Estuary near Punta Gorda, Florida located on the Gulf of Mexico. Photo © Carlton Ward Jr/TNC

June 1st is the official opening of hurricane season for the United States’ Atlantic coast, but for the millions of families that call southeastern Florida home, they don’t need a date on a calendar to remind them of the threats. Miami frequently tops the list as one of the world’s most vulnerable metropolitan areas with the most to lose from hurricanes, sea-level rise and flooding. With a population of almost 2.7 million in Miami-Dade County and rapidly growing urbanization, increased human exposure to changing and less predictable hazards is inevitable.

The economic toll from a changing climate is rising at astonishing rates worldwide, and Miami is no exception. Coastal flooding and erosion are a regular consequence of today’s highest tides, causing billions of dollars in loss of property value as land is rapidly swept away or being slowly eroded by sea level rise. The costs of climate change can also be measured by the effects on critical infrastructure at risk, such as hospitals, schools and businesses that are already at or near sea level and vulnerable to flooding and erosion from waves and storm surges. According to The World Economic Forum’s World Risk Report, the number one global risk is failure to mitigate and adapt to climate changes.

As the population of Miami and surrounding communities continues to grow with more and more people looking to enjoy all that the region has to offer, so too will the urgency of preparation and the chorus of voices calling for solutions. It is time to act now, before another disaster strikes and as other less visible effects of climate changes are gradually having impact.

Kathy Baughman McLeod is Managing Director, Coastal Risk & Resilience at The Nature Conservancy and Rebecca Scheurer is Director at the Red Cross Global Disaster Preparedness Center.

A Note From Our Global Leader


Coastal communities are already at risk from storms and flooding, and climate change will make the situation worse. But we’re at an exciting point when organizations across many sectors are recognizing that nature itself can help protect these communities.

Natural solutions like mangroves and coral reefs are not only effective at reducing the force of storms—they also have the potential to be self-maintaining and replicable in many places. Leveraging these solutions, though, is a cross-sector challenge.

That’s why The Nature Conservancy is working in Florida with the Miami-Dade county government, the engineering firm CH2M, the risk-modeling firm RMS and the American Red Cross’s Global Disaster Preparation Center, bringing together ecologists, economists and engineers to explore how we value and invest in nature. And Miami will continue to build on this work as part of the Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities, a global network of member cities responding to the challenges of the twenty-first century.

By working together to protect and restore coastal ecosystems, we can build resilience in communities before storms hit. It’s gratifying to see that the Red Cross is focused on prevention and preparedness—and that they are looking to natural solutions.

“Nature reduces risk and nature protects people,” as my colleague Kathy McLeod said at our recent event in Miami. “That can change the world.”


Originally Posted on Miami Herald

June 01, 2016