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South Florida has for years felt the impact of rising sea levels in the state, but the pace is picking up rapidly and is expected to quicken even more, a new report by the Miami Herald shows.

Over the past 80 years, sea levels have risen approximately one foot, with eight inches of that increase occurring in the last 30 years, according to Brian McNoldy, a senior research associate at the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine, Atmospheric and Earth Science.

The next foot increase, however, is expected within 30 years. The next one 20 years later and the following one in just 10, according to projections by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The current trends are in line with the organization's higher projections.

Local governments are using these projections for future infrastructure planning and development, but the report showed that the Ron DeSantis administration is requiring them to consider the intermediate-low and intermediate scenarios when applying for state funding.

DeSantis also signed this week a bill removing climate change as a policy priority in the state, saying the decision "restores sanity in our approach to energy and rejects the agenda of the radical green zealots."

Concretely, the bill bans offshore wind turbines and boosts natural gas production. It's set to go into effect on July 1 and deletes most mentions of climate change, seeking to reverse many policies introduced during a previous administration. The signing comes as Florida saw its warmest year since 1895 in 2023, with surface temperatures reaching as high as 177 degrees Fahrenheit in certain areas.

Two primary factors contribute to sea level rise: ocean temperature and ice sheet melting. As fossil fuel combustion traps more heat in the atmosphere, the oceans absorb much of this heat. Warmer water expands, leading to higher sea levels. Additionally, rising atmospheric temperatures cause ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica to melt, adding vast quantities of water to the oceans.

South Florida also faces unique challenges, such as land subsidence, where parts of the land gradually sink. Although this subsidence is minimal, equivalent to the thickness of two credit cards over five years in some Miami Beach areas, it exacerbates the overall situation.

The most significant uncertainty in predicting future sea level rise is the amount of pollution that will be released into the atmosphere. Lower-end projections assume a rapid reduction in fossil fuel use, while higher-end projections consider a scenario where fossil fuel consumption increases.

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