New Yorker: Don’t buy real estate in Miami…

“The Siege of Miami” is a New Yorker article about flooding in Miami. Here’s one point that seems worth discussing..

“I believe in human innovation,” Levine responded. “If, thirty or forty years ago, I’d told you that you were going to be able to communicate with your friends around the world by looking at your watch or with an iPad or an iPhone, you would think I was out of my mind.” Thirty or forty years from now, he said, “We’re going to have innovative solutions to fight back against sea-level rise that we cannot even imagine today.”

What do readers think? I tend to be optimistic about technology for improving electric motors, batteries, windmills, and other items associated with cutting CO2 emissions. But flood control and pumps would seem to me to fall into the same category as building bridges, which Americans are getting worse over at over time (see “Longfellow Bridge repairs will now take about as long as the original construction” and “U.S. versus German infrastructure spending and results“).


  1. Jack D

    January 16, 2016 @ 12:50 pm


    Half of the Netherlands would be permanently under water if it were not for flood control mechanisms. The mechanisms are well understood and have been for centuries. It’s not rocket science – you build a dike/levee/wall higher than the expected sea level around a city/area but by doing this you turn the city/area into a giant bathtub when it rains so now you need pumps to bail out the bathtub. As long as the levees and pumps do not fail, you stay dry.

    New Orleans flooded not due to lack of technology but because of shoddy construction work and/or maintenance on the levees and floodwalls. And many of these were built when costs were lower – to build a new system of levees or floodgates around a major city that does not have them yet would costs billions and take forever because of the environmental studies, archaeological digs, etc., etc. – by the time they were completed the city that they were meant to protect would already be underwater. It’s clear from numerous examples that our society has lost the ability to do big things at a cost that anyone can afford.

  2. Skeptical

    January 16, 2016 @ 3:01 pm


    The current rate of sea level rise is 7inches per century, same as its been since the 1800s with no acceleration coinciding with the extra CO2 emitted as we industrialized.

    The scary sea level predictions have the same credibility as Al Gore saying 15 years ago that we only have 15 years until we reach a global warming point of no return (satellite+balloon data show no warming in the last 18 years), or the IPCC climate models from 15 years ago predicting 2-3C warming per century (last year they revised it down to 0.6-1.6C).

  3. Jong

    January 16, 2016 @ 3:20 pm


    The Netherlands solution will not work in Florida. According to the article the land in Florida is porous, so the water comes up through the ground. They would have to do something to make the land not porous and then build dikes to block water coming in from the ocean.

  4. Jackie

    January 16, 2016 @ 3:54 pm


    When they built the WTC they built something called “the bathtub” to keep out the water of the Hudson River using the “slurry wall” technique – they dug a deep narrow trench all around the site which they filled with mud (similar to drilling mud) as they dug to keep it from collapsing. They then pumped in “grout” (a liquidy form of concrete) that was heavier than the mud – this fell to the bottom of the trench and displaced the mud (which they would then recover for use on the next section). The grout hardened into concrete and formed a water proof barrier. For the WTC, they then dug out the inside of the bathtub, revealing the slurry walls but you don’t have to.

    I’m sure that building a slurry wall around an entire city would not be cheap but it seems like it might be possible assuming that if you dig deep enough you will reach an impermeable layer. Or maybe you also have to create a slurry floor in addition to the slurry walls if the permeable layer is too deep to wall off.

  5. Javier

    January 16, 2016 @ 7:13 pm


    Does Holland have to deal with the kind of storms and hurricanes that Florida gets?

  6. M

    January 16, 2016 @ 7:18 pm


    I’m not sure I buy the argument… “30 years ago you wouldn’t have believed the possibility of an iPhone” – therefore, since we have the iPhone today, “you can believe that in 30 years we’ll have technology X,” where X = whatever technology the person is working on at the moment.

    Why not jetpacks? A cancer cure? A secure, easy-to-use operating system? We’ll have all of these in 30 years, just as certainly as I hold this iPhone in my hand…

  7. bobbybobbob

    January 16, 2016 @ 9:11 pm


    Dunno about the rising sea level stuff or the specifics of Miami, but there’s a reason most of the beach accessible eastern seaboard was cheap and small beach shacks as recently as 40 years ago. Areas near the beach get swept away (or sometimes grow dramatically). There are Jersey barrier islands where the block numbering starts at 12. It didn’t originally. Near the beach is just not suited for expensive buildings and federally subsidized flood insurance. Anything built near the beach on the east coast should be un-insurable. People very clearly used to build stuff right on the coast with the attitude that it’d be a write-off if a major hurricane and storm surge hit.

    Unrelatedly, the New York Press can always be counted on to take a dump on wealth developing in the USA outside of New York. It’s hilarious. They were writing about the shale oil projects as full of drugs and rapists and toxic chemicals. They gloat about any other city falling on rough times. They do all kinds of underhanded stories on San Francisco and LA.

  8. John V

    January 18, 2016 @ 1:12 pm


    Skeptical: I’m not sure where you get your data, but the article says “For the past several years, the daily high-water mark in the Miami area has been racing up at the rate of almost an inch a year, nearly ten times the rate of average global sea-level rise. ”

    So they seem to think it is going up 1″ per year there, while global average is 1″ per decade.

    Personally, I think this needs a trip to Florida to check things out first hand. Preferably this week, while it is 10 degrees outside here.

    Phil: I read this article a few weeks back, after it was referenced on one of my Doomer websites. Yes, that paragraph did stick out as being somewhat unreasonably optimistic.

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