Study: Global warming threatens Florida - Fox29 WFLX TV, West Palm Beach, FL-news & weather

Study: Global warming threatens Florida

BOCA RATON, FL (WFLX) The system is simple: stormwater is collected in Palm Beach County's 1,600 miles of canal.

The drainage keeps neighborhoods dry as the water flows through floodgates and into the Atlantic.

"This system has been very effective," said Barry Heimlich, a researcher at FAU.

But scientists at FAU say the system is on its last legs.

A report released today says global warming will cause sea levels in South Florida to rise up to seven inches in twenty years.

The pressure you see in this locke would be neutralized from the other side, causing salwater to back into our drinking supply.

An even bigger problem?

"Serious flooding during heavy rain events like the kind of rainfall we've been having," said Heimlich.

Even worse than that?

Fixing the problem won't be free.

Scientists expect that the gates will have to be replaced with bigger ones that have pumps, a huge undertaking when you consider that there are dozens in South Florida.

The total cost is enough to increase utility bills by $100 a month for every taxpayer.

"A big challenge is where is this money going to come from? For just the drainage system, we are going to need a billion and a quarter dollars over the next forty years," said Heimlich.

He says sea levels might not raise as much as expected if immediate and aggressive steps were taken to lessen climate change.

If not, Heimlich says, South Florida - in just twenty years - could be underwater everytime it rains, if the reengineering doesn't start soon.

"We can all be ostriches and keep our head in the sand and not see what's coming. But here in South Florida, if we do that, our heads are going to get wet," said Heimlich.

Scientists at FAU started this study in 2009 at the request of a group in Washington, The Bipartisan Policy Center.

This is the same group behind the 9/11 Commission Report.

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