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First Coast Connect: The Threat Of Sea Level Rising In Florida

Allen Tilley, retired professor of the University of North Florida, believes government leaders aren’t doing enough long-term planning to prepare for the damages sea level rising can cause across the nation, but especially here in North Florida.

Tilley has run a listserv that curates reports about climate change and the impacts of rising oceans since 2004. His listserv, Global Warming Study Group, provides a summary of news items on global warming, with links to online sources, twice a week.

Tilley appeared on Tuesday’s First Coast Connect to discuss why it is critical for Florida to begin planning phases of how to deal with sea levels rising.

Recent data from theNational Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said sea levels could rise 9 feet by as early as 2050. Tilley said it was previously thought that sea levels would rise an inch a decade, but now it is an inch a year, which is why he urges Jacksonville to conduct a vulnerability study.

St. Augustine has made an agreement with the University of Florida to conduct a vulnerability study, with hopes to have the study completed by December.

“Now we will have a barrier island beach community who are actually looking at sea level rise and its impact on infrastructure and that's what you want to do,” Tilley said.

Tilley said within 15 years, northeast Florida’s water table will start to be impacted from drainage, and tidal flooding caused by climate change will continue not only in South Florida, but also in Jacksonville.

“One third have witnessed tidal flooding in Florida,” he said. “Eighty one percent of the people in Florida are now concerned about the rise in sea level, which is above the national average.”

When looking at the effects of sea levels rising, Tilley said notice is the groundwater level.

“The first thing you will notice about sea level rise is that your drainage is in difficulty. Your water supply is in difficulty. Your sewer is in difficulty,” he said.

Because Miami has not taken care of their outdated sewer system, as the groundwater rises, it is carrying sewage with it — a problem our city wants to avoid.

“It isn't a matter of believing or not believing. Its a matter of what you know — either you know something or you don't," he said. "If you know something about sea level rise, you know it's going up.

"It was an inch a decade ago, and now it's an inch a year — that’s measurable, not a matter of ideology."


Watch this interview, courtesy of our partner TVJax.