The psychology of Miami’s struggle to adapt to sea-level rise

By G. A. Treuer | May 4, 2018

Florida’s Miami-Dade County is extremely vulnerable to rising seas, and its options for adaptation are limited. One of the biggest challenges facing residents of the region is to overcome psychological barriers to climate action. Humans have natural biases that favor the present over the future, strongly held opinions over new information, and certainty over uncertainty. These biases make it easy for people to learn from experience, but difficult for them to imagine and internalize future threats such as sea-level rise. Nevertheless, South Florida is moving forward with plans to address sea-level rise through new investments, climate change projections, and partnerships. These are hopeful signs that Miami and other communities are coming to rely on the best available science, rather than on past experience, to cope with sea-level rise.

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