Downtown Miami.
Downtown Miami.
Photo: Getty

Miami might be fresh on the mind for some because—hello!—Jennifer Lopez and Shakira completely stole the show at the Super Bowl Sunday. However, Miami is always on our minds at Earther because of climate change. And a recent report has put it front and center yet again because it shows just how vulnerable Miami (and the entire state of Florida, for that matter) are to sea level rise, extreme heat, and climate change at large.

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Published late last month, the report from Resources for the Future (RFF) outlines in scary detail the reality that the Sunshine State faces over the next 20 years. And let me tell you, a whole lot can happen in that span of time.

“The key finding is that Florida is experiencing effects today, and those effects will become notably more substantial in 15 to 20 years,” Daniel Raimi, a senior research associate at RFF who authored the report, told Earther.

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The situation is so bad for Miami, in particular, that the report notes the city “faces the largest risk of any major coastal city in the world” because of the value of its coastal property. Other cities in the world may face a higher risk when it comes to the number of people or the amount of land area set to be hit by sea level rise or storms, but when it comes to expensive real estate, Miami is fucked.

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Of course, real estate value is hardly the only concern facing people living in Florida when it comes to climate change impacts. People in this state have to worry about the very real, life-threatening risk from extreme heat, increasingly intense storms and downpours, and disease-spreading bugs. In total, climate change may kill 1,400 more Floridians by 2035 if we continue to increase carbon pollution. Miami-Dade County alone would see up to 191 additional deaths a year under that climate scenario.

Illustration for article titled Miami Is Fucked
Graphic: Resources for the Future
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Yes, 2020 just started, but 2035 is closer than we think. That’s why policymakers need to begin putting forth thoughtful climate policy. Things don’t have to get this bad. The number of deaths drops, for example, when the researchers looked at a moderate scenario where global greenhouse gas emissions rise by about 1 percent annually over the next 20 years instead of 3 percent annually.

“What our analysis shows us is that the impacts of climate change are substantial, and they are going to get worse in the next several decades,” Raimi told Earther. “So policymakers—should they choose to address climate change—we think there are a variety of public policy tools they could use to do that cost-effective.”

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Illustration for article titled Miami Is Fucked
Graphic: Resources for the Future

The report zooms into carbon pricing as one solution. This policy idea involves attaching a price tag to sources of greenhouse gases. The revenue made from charging consumers extra every time they fill up their tank could be used in a number of ways, and the authors conduct their analysis based on eight federal carbon pricing proposals.

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Most proposals use the income to create dividends to give back to individuals, but the others put the money toward infrastructure. The authors found that, across all proposals, the biggest burden to Floridian households would be to higher-income families who have a higher carbon footprint. Low-income households in the state should see additional income from the dividends, ensuring they aren’t forced to shoulder even more of an already unfair climate burden.

Illustration for article titled Miami Is Fucked
Graphic: Resources for the Future
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“That original analysis gets at the idea that to reduce risks of climate change, these policies don’t have to overburden the lowest-income households,” Raimi said.

That’ll be key in addressing the climate crisis. Policymakers have to reduce emissions but not at the cost of everyday people already dealing with enough financially. As this report shows, some policy decisions could even help out those who are struggling—and incentivize those of us living lavishly to, uh, maybe chill out? You got this, Florida.

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Update: 2/6/2020, 2:10 p.m. ET: This post has updated the graphic for the cost of flood risks for cities around the world, which incorrectly stated previously that Miami faces a $400 million risk to assets. It is, in fact, $400 billion.

Yessenia Funes is a senior staff writer with Earther. She loves all things environmental justice and dreams of writing children's books.

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