Albert Slap: Climate Risk Assessor

An octopus swimming in a Miami Beach parking garage at high tide. Tidal flooding driven by sea level rise has become a persistent challenge in Miami Beach and other east coast cities.

How much is that Octopus in the parking garage?

The more important question is what will persistent exposure to tidal water do to the parking garage and the buildings around it. The octopus can probably fend for itself.

Albert Slap is a former law professor who co-founded Coastal Risk Consultants to help people understand the impact that climate change will have on where they live and work and how they live their lives.

While it is a business, it is also a compelling way to make the somewhat abstract concept of climate change very real to people who live in those areas that are likely to be affected. Slap’s company is based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida — just up US 1 from Miami Beach where the octopus tried its tentacles at valet parking.

In our discussion, Slap says cities on Florida’s Atlantic coast have decided that they must act on their own in response to rising seas and tides where they are. Miami Beach is spending hundreds of millions of dollars to raise roads. New commercial construction along the shore are essentially waterproofing their bottom floors to enable them to continue operation in times of tidal flooding.

Slap’s company uses laser measured elevation technology to map parcels down to nine square foot squares that give a level of accuracy and granularity far greater than available through FEMA floodplain maps. As Slap explains, FEMA floodplain maps are inherently backward looking, they cannot project what might happen.

Using the laser elevation maps and connecting that data with the latest climate, sea level rise, and geographic data, Coastal Risk Consultants can provide home and business owners much more accurate climate risk assessments than are available through trying to wade through the information being produced primarily for national, state and regional uses.

“We don’t have to agree on the sources of what is driving climate change in order to recognize that it is changing and that we must figure out how to respond,” Slap says. “We give people actionable information on what climate change will mean for them, their homes and their businesses.”

Slap believes that private insurers will look at getting involved in the flood insurance market, even though in some areas it is not a matter of risk so much as a matter of certainty.

In the current rollout of the CPRA’s 2017 Coastal Master Plan, the most encouraging development has been the recent decision to convene community conversations about climate change impact in those parishes in Louisiana that will be most affected by it. Getting those discussions down from the abstract — “the coast” — to the specific — your parish, your town, your street — could be the way to break the paralysis that is a byproduct of the ideological war over whether climate change is, in fact, real.

Climate change is real. It’s here now. Reality is not particularly interested in whether you believe it or not.

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Thanks to Matt Roberts, AOC’s Community Production Manager for help locating the music used in this segment.

A Foolish Game by Hans Atom (c) copyright 2017 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial (3.0) license. http://dig.ccmixter.org/files/hansatom/55394 Ft: Snowflake