Good afternoon, my name is Dave Rogers, from Ponte Vedra Beach. I’m a retired Navy commander, and a graduate of the United States Naval Academy with a bachelor’s degree in Ocean Engineering.
I think it’s appropriate that we’re meeting today in St. Augustine, America’s oldest continuously inhabited city. Whether or not it retains that distinction will depend, to a large extent, on what we do in the next several years.
Sea level rise is a clear and present economic danger to Florida. Our state presently has no plan to address the social and economic challenges it represents.
Current projections vary, but it is possible, indeed likely, that all understate the amount of increase we may anticipate. While the IPCC estimate for 2100 places the upper bound of projected sea level rise at 2 meters, data since that report suggest the rate of glacial ice melt is greater than the model projections.
There is a significant risk that levels will exceed the current upper bound projections, and indeed southeast Florida is using a 2.1 meter projection in 2100 for critical infrastructure projects.
Regardless of any risk of exceeding the upper bounds, Florida is unprepared for even a meter of sea level rise.
In order to develop an effective plan to respond to the threat, Florida leaders must know exactly what is at risk, and therefore a comprehensive vulnerability assessment is a prerequisite to any planning effort.
I ask that you prepare legislation for next year to enact and fund a statewide sea level rise vulnerability assessment.
Such an assessment should at least:
Identify private property and public infrastructure at risk of physical loss or incapacitation due to sea level rise.
Estimate the cost of economic losses of all property at risk.
Identify all at-risk properties or infrastructure elements that may be protected, those that may be moved, and those that must be abandoned in place.
The vulnerability assessment should include a political, socio-economic risk analysis of the Caribbean region and the implications for mass migration to Florida.
A comprehensive assessment is an urgent, enormous task, and significant resources must be directed toward its completion.
I recommend mobilizing the State University System, under the direction of the University of Florida, in collaboration with federal partners, especially the Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Navy, NOAA and NASA.
The Florida legislature should encourage the Florida Congressional delegation to act as one voice on the matter of sea level rise. Frankly, Florida should be leading the nation on this issue.
Failure to act on understanding the scope of the risk will result in ineffective responses to the threat, essentially, shoveling money into the sea.
Without a well planned response, uncertainty in the marketplace, as the effects of sea level rise inevitably become more manifest, will compel wealth to flee Florida, leaving an economic disaster in its wake.
Thank you for your attention. I hope that this is just the beginning of a productive conversation on the necessity for urgent action.
David M. Rogers
CDR, USN (Ret.)