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Democrats Set to Square off in a City Under Siege by the Climate Crisis

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View of downtown Miami, Florida from Hobie Island on Feb. 2, 2019. Michael Muraz / Flickr

The Democratic candidates for president descended upon Miami for a two-night debate on Wednesday and Thursday. Any candidate hoping to carry the state will have to make the climate crisis central to their campaign, as The New York Times reported.


The evidence of the climate crisis is everywhere around the candidates. It's a daily reality for the city's rich and poor residents alike. Not far from Miami, a wildfire consumed 17,000 acres of the Everglades in less than 24 hours and was zero-percent contained by Monday afternoon, according to Vice News.

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Miami Beach is investing $650 million to raise the city streets, since the Union of Concerned Scientists predicted that 30 percent of Miami Beach will be underwater by 2045, according to the South Florida Sun Sentinel. Mosquitoes are now a year-round problem. Streets flood on sunny days. Investors are buying up land on higher ground. Daily heat records were set or tied on Sunday and Monday, just the third and fourth day of summer when the mercury reached 95 and 98 degrees, respectively.

"Climate change is really the issue that sits on all other issues," said Rachel Silverstein, executive director of Miami Waterkeeper, an environmental research and activist group, as The New York Times reported. "It affects security. It affects drinking water. It affects tourism. It affects public health. Property values. It's a part of the discussion of almost any topic that might come up."

The climate crisis is on the mind of Floridians. About 72 percent of the state's voters said they are "very concerned" or "somewhat concerned" about climate change, according to a Quinnipiac poll, as The Palm Beach Post reported. When it comes to Florida Democrats, another poll found that 85 percent support government action to address the climate crisis and it's one of the top three issues on voters' minds heading into the 2020 election, as The New York Times reported.

"I wish every single candidate would make that their highest priority," said Yoca Arditi-Rocha, executive director of The CLEO Institute, a Miami-based nonprofit that educates the public about climate change, as The Palm Beach Post reported. "The crisis really deserves it."

Despite the Trump administration's attack on climate science and denial of a rapidly changing climate, Republican Governor Ron DeSantis is advertising for a high-ranking chief resilience officer, someone who will work to "prepare Florida for the environmental, physical and economic impacts of climate change, especially sea-level rise," according to the South Florida Sun Sentinel.

The urgency in addressing the climate crisis has taken a foothold in South Florida. In the Miami-Fort Lauderdale area, 49 percent of poll respondents, compared with 30 percent elsewhere in the state, said they had made changes to their homes in the past year to protect against sea-level rise, flooding or extreme weather, as The New York Times reported.

Climate crisis policy advocates and environmental activists say the topic deserves as much attention as health care or immigration, especially since they are interconnected.

"This is not something of the future," said Arditi-Rocha as The Palm Beach Post reported. "This is very much a present climate emergency that we all are experiencing."

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