'Not Political… Survival': Faced With Rising Climate Risks, South Florida City Votes for Secession
'South Florida's situation is very precarious and in need of immediate attention'
Fed up with the lack of action by Florida lawmakers to protect the state's communities from rising seas and other climate change-related risks, officials in the city of South Miami have passed an ambitious resolution calling for the state to be split in two—allowing for the southern half of the state to take climate action into their own hands.
"South Florida's situation is very precarious and in need of immediate attention…. [T]he creation of the 51st state, South Florida, is a necessity for the very survival of the entire southern region of the current state of Florida," the resolution (pdf), which passed 3-2 in a city commission meeting, reads.
Vice Mayor Walter Harris, who introduced the proposal, told commissioners at the meeting that officials in Tallahassee have not addressed the city’s concerns and that politics have no place in environmental legislation.
"We have to be able to deal directly with this environmental concern and we can’t really get it done in Tallahassee," Harris said. "I don’t care what people think—it’s not a matter of electing the right people."
If approved, the state of South Florida would consist of 23 counties, many of which are as low as five feet above sea level—a dangerous scenario as sea levels are expected to rise three to six feet by the end of this century.
"South Florida has very porous rock and, as the level of the sea rises, the pressure will cause water to rise up through the ground and flood the inland areas," the resolution reads. "Many of the issues facing South Florida are not political, but are now significant safety issues. [P]resently, in order to address the concerns of South Florida, it is necessary to travel to Tallahassee in North Florida. Often South Florida issues do not receive the support of Tallahassee."
That is despite the fact that south Florida generates more than 69 percent of the state's revenue and contains 67 percent of its population, the resolution states.
As ThinkProgress notes:
South Florida has done what it can to independently tackle the threat — four South Florida counties have formed the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Compact, which has created a projection for sea level rise in the region and a Regional Climate Action Plan that is adaptable to each county’s needs. But these local efforts aren’t enough without support from the state, which is why the South Miami council members who voted for secession want to create a new governing body in South Florida.
For those reasons—among others—it seemed on Tuesday there would be no love lost between officials in Tallahassee and South Miami Mayor Philip Stoddard, who supports the resolution.
"It’s very apparent that the attitude of the northern part of the state is that they would just love to saw the state in half and just let us float off into the Caribbean," Stoddard said at the meeting. "They’ve made that abundantly clear every possible opportunity and I would love to give them the opportunity to do that."
Many of Florida’s top Republican lawmakers, including Governor Rick Scott and U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, are climate change deniers. Stoddard, himself a biology professor at Florida International University, told the Guardian in July, "Another foot of sea-level rise will be enough to bring salt water into our fresh water supplies and our sewage system [in south Florida]. Those services will be lost when that happens."
He added, "Rubio is an idiot."
While the chances of the resolution moving forward are certainly low, it states the issue of rising sea levels warrants taking a step like secession: "[C]limate change is a scientific reality resulting in global warming and rising sea level."