The potential threats of climate change and global warming may have an exceptionally larger impact on Florida compared to the rest of the nation. Currently, there are numerous communities that are built near the water and that are barely above the present sea level that could be in danger of disappearing.
Therefore, we wanted to find out if residents of the at-risk areas have been making changes to their long-term plans. We got in touch with one family who has done just that, uprooting their once thought to be permanent roots in southern Florida for a new life further north.
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Climate Change Concerns
There is growing research and evidence that rising temperatures will have numerous consequences on the world’s climate. The first concern would be the possible erosion of the current coastline. Today’s sandy beaches may become tomorrow’s underwater continental shelf. It could be that the new shoreline starts as far inland as Sweetwater or Coral Springs, which would not leave much more room for inhabitable land since the Everglades are also directly adjacent.
Rising sea levels would also directly affect properties close to the shorelines as well as any community that is only marginally above the current sea level. That could mean cities like West Perrine, Doral, and Sea Ranch Lakes could all become underwater. Elevated water levels could then cause more widespread flooding in parts of the state that are currently not as prone to water emergencies.
On top of that, there is the risk of water contamination. This threat is usually overlooked, but it is possible that the saltwater from the Atlantic Ocean could make its way further inland and mix with the current freshwater supply. The drinking water could also become polluted by sewage that could start to leak from an overtaxed piping system.
We think another significant consequence of this phenomenon is its varying impact on the different parts of the socioeconomic structure of each community. Those who can afford to move to higher ground will leave behind those who are not able to change their location.
Of course, it is also possible that cities and local governments start to legitimately plan and provide resources to mitigate these concerns. Many large cities, such as Miami, have been developing a strategy to fight back and are quite confident that they will be able to adapt to the rising sea levels.
Similarly, we could rely on the ingenuity of mankind and the continuing advances in technologies to deliver a breakthrough that would further accelerate our defense against climate change issues. However, all of these are just speculative thoughts and we cannot be certain if these coastal cities will be able to actively manage and adapt to a new climate if it comes.
With all of these potential concerns, we wanted to see what the current residents of southern Florida thought about the situation and if they were planning on doing something about it.
We spoke with Emily and Tyler, a married couple with 2 kids, 4 year old Liam and 2 year old Grace. They met each other in college in Pennsylvania and eventually settled in Kendale Lakes, a suburb of 50,000 about 30 minutes from Miami. When they bought their house in 2010, there was little talk about the chance of rising sea levels, nor about its severity and impact on southern Florida.
Fast forward to 2020, where Emily and Tyler found themselves in the heart of the risk area. They heard about the growing concerns and wanted to reevaluate their choice so they could make the best decision for their growing family.
Emily said, “At first, we really didn’t pay so much attention to the news. We honestly thought it was going to take another generation to see some drastic differences, but then we noticed how much more extreme weather there has been in recent years, so we really felt like things were happening now.”
Tyler added, “It got a bit more real for me when I started hearing how just a few inches of higher water would actually cover our whole city.”
Starting in the spring of 2020, they determined that it was time to go. They started scouting out new locations with several criteria in mind.
“Given all of the new information that we gathered, it was clear that we wanted to move away from riskiest areas and not choose a new place that could be threatened. But, we still love Florida and the lifestyle here, so we were not willing to abandon it,” Emily explained. “We still wanted to enjoy the warm weather and have the chance to get to a beach in under an hour.”
“We also wanted something as big as Kendale Lakes that offered nice places to go to as well as being close to a big city.”
Making a Move
Emily and Tyler narrowed their search to locations north of Kissimmee. Meanwhile, northern Florida as well as the panhandle were ruled out since they still wanted to stay relatively close to the south.
Finally, in the winter of 2020, they agreed on their choice – Altamonte Springs.
Altamonte Springs is a suburb north of Orlando with a population of over 40,000 residents. It met their need for size and amenities, as well as proximity to the beach and to a larger city.
“We think Altamonte Springs was really the perfect choice for us. It is far enough inland that there is virtually no risk of it being affected by the rising sea levels but it is still just an hour from the shore and Orlando is just a quick drive away,” noted Tyler.
They settled on a 4 bedroom house on a quiet street full of trees. “Altamonte Springs should last us a while. Liam and Grace can have their own room and we will have the peace of mind that we should be safe from the changes going on in the environment,” Tyler remarked.
Emily agreed, “We’re very happy to have found this new community that fits our needs. It’s really lifted what I felt as a mental strain on us over the past few years.”
How do they like Altamonte Springs so far? Emily noted, “Our neighbors have been really warm and open and the kids are already making friends, so we feel lucky to have been welcomed so quickly. There are also so many new things for us to explore as a family, so it actually feels great to have a new start.”