FIU, FEMA partner to build climate change resiliency

Every dollar spent in actions to reduce disaster losses saves the nation $4 in damages.

To build climate change resiliency, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) partnered with FIU to provide local community leaders with the knowledge and tools to assess and improve their capabilities to prevent, mitigate, respond to and recover from climate impacts, including sea level rise, drought and wildfires, heatwaves, floods, powerful storms and other hazards.

FIU and FEMA hosted a seminar for local leaders in South Florida to build climate change resiliency in the local community.

FIU and FEMA hosted a seminar for local leaders in South Florida to build climate change resiliency in the local community.

FEMA’s National Exercise Division and FIU’s Sea Level Solutions Center and Southeast Environmental Research Center hosted a seminar Sept. 21-22 that brought together public, private and nonprofit sector decision makers from Miami-Dade and Broward counties. The White House named FIU as the host for the pilot seminar earlier this summer. It will set the stage for building a sustainable, “Climate Adaptation, Preparedness and Resilience Seminar” program across the country.

“We are here to discuss a tremendous challenge, but also an incredibly opportunity,” said Mike Heithaus, dean of the College of Arts & Sciences. “At FIU, we’re working with local, state and federal agencies and other partners to understand the threats sea level rise and climate change pose to our community, and ensure we have the knowledge and tools to adapt. It’s my hope what we do in South Florida can serve as a model in other parts of the world. I’m excited to see what happens.”

The seminar participants received climate science information, discussed adaptation and resilience strategies, and designed seminars, workshops and simulated scenarios to evaluate climate resilience planning. The expectation is that they will use the knowledge and tools promoted during the seminar to address short- and long-term hazards, risks and challenges posed by a changing climate, and to empower action within their own communities. Participants included representatives from the City of Doral, Town of Surfside, City of Boynton Beach, Miami-Dade County Office of Emergency Management, Broward County Emergency Management, Florida Power and Light, South Florida Water Management District, Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida, OHL Arellano Construction, and U.S. Southern Command.

“This is an example of some of the work that will be fostered through the Sea Level Solutions Center to tackle the challenges and new opportunities brought on by changing climate,” said Tiffany Troxler, director of the FIU Sea Level Solutions Center. “I hope the local participants walk away with a renewed energy and sense of they can be the trainers that foster solutions to changing sea level and changing climate.”

South Florida ranks as the world’s most vulnerable urban region because of the large number of assets exposed to the effects of sea level rise. In August, FIU launched the Sea Level Solutions Center, a hub for international research, collaboration, education, communication and outreach focused on understanding sea level rise and its impacts. It combines expertise in the natural, physical and social sciences, along with architecture, engineering, computer sciences, law, communications, business, health and tourism management from across the university to develop long-term strategies in the face of rising seas.