Despite sea level rise warning, Florida making it easier to build along the coast

On the same day that South Florida got a big warning about rising sea levels, Palm Beach County commissioners approved a state-required measure making it easier to build along the coast.

The National Resources Defense Council on Tuesday released a report that pointed to South Florida as one of the parts of the country most at risk from climate change.

The environmental group called for local governments to take steps to prepare for rising sea levels threatening to bring flooding and threats to drinking water supplies.

That doesn’t include encouraging more people to move to coastal areas growing more at risk of flooding, according the NRDC.

But those concerns didn’t stop the Palm Beach County Commission Tuesday from approving a measure to reduce its “coastal high hazard area” about 90 percent.

State lawmakers in recent years watered down the standards for what coastal areas can be designated “high hazard,” so county officials say they had no choice but to make the change.

"Most people believe in global warming and sea level rise," County Commissioner Paulette Burdick said about shrinking the hazard area. "I have concerns about it."

Climate change isn’t a matter of "belief," said Commissioner Shelley Vana, who also questioned shrinking the hazard area.

"Climate change is happening," Vana said. "It is based on scientific fact.  … It’s not whether you believe it or not."

Manmade air pollution adds to the carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere that trap heat from the sun. Increased levels of greenhouse gases are leading to higher temperatures melting ice sheets and swelling oceans, resulting in rising sea levels.

The South Florida Water Management District has already identified 28 flood-control structures along the southeast coast and six along the west coast at risk of not working properly due to rising sea levels.

The NRDC report projects sea levels will increase 1.5 to 2.3 feet in Miami by 2050 and 3 to 5 feet by 2100.

The projections are more severe for the Florida Keys, which could more than 90 percent of land area to rising seas by 2100.

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