To call attention to sea-level rise, Florida Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez is wearing rain boots that feature the phrase "#ActOnClimateFL." His bill just passed its first Senate committee, which is good news for a Capitol that has so far turned a blind eye. (Courtesy photo)

At last, Tallahassee is talking about sea-level rise | Editorial

Every journey of a thousand miles, the adage goes, begins with a single step. Last week, a state Senate committee took a small step toward protecting our region against the devastation that can be foreseen as the sea keeps rising. Voting 5-0, Republicans and Democrats on the Environment and Natural Resources Committee together passed Senate Bill 78, which would require that state-funded infrastructure projects near the coast be preceded by a sea-level impact studies.

Coming the same week that thousands of young people across the state, nation and globe skipped school to demand action to combat the projected changes in climate that threaten their generation’s future, the unanimous vote by the panel in Tallahassee was a breakthrough.

After years of turning a blind eye to the growing prospect of devastating losses, the Legislature is beginning to concede to reality: Sea level rise is happening; it will worsen; and Florida must adjust.

SB 78 addresses one obvious adjustment: From now on, whenever we construct public buildings, roads or bridges, we should be factoring in the structures’ ability to withstand the heavier flooding that we know to expect. Doing this will help keep repair, replacement and insurance costs to a minimum. And by setting statewide standards for making structures resilient, we’ll give the insurance industry and Wall Street more confidence that coastal buildings are worth investing in over 20 or 30 years.

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