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Climate Change Denial: Vulnerability And Costs For Florida’s Coastal Destinations

Roberta Atzori, Alan Fyall

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Purpose The purpose of this paper is to present an overview of the vulnerability of Florida’s coastal destinations to climate change and the costs of the adaptation measures required to cope with the impacts of climate change in a range of current and future scenarios. Design/methodology/approach The paper illustrates a range of current and projected climate change scenarios in Florida, the challenges the state is already experiencing in dealing with the impacts of climate change and some of the measures adopted to date in three particularly vulnerable coastal destinations, namely Fort Lauderdale, Miami Beach and Sarasota. Findings Although tourism is the number one industry in Florida, the state holds a particularly vulnerable position with respect to climate change. The vacuum of political will to address these issues at the state level is thus of particular concern given the vulnerable position of Florida’s coastal areas. With nearly 10 percent of its land area lying at less than one meter above the present sea level, adaptation is especially urgent in Florida. The local government of Florida’s cities such as Fort Lauderdale, Miami Beach and Sarasota are not willing to surrender to sea level rise (SLR). However, without a strong political will to address climate change at the state and federal levels, the costs of adapting to an escalating SLR are becoming progressively unsustainable. Originality/value This illustrative case study paper provides a contemporary synthesis of the implications for Florida’s coastal tourism destinations of rising sea levels and those adaptation strategies deemed appropriate in the search for their longer-term sustainability.