Study: Most Miami-Dade residents are concerned by sea-level rise, willing to support adaptation strategies



  • The rate of global sea-level rise has more than doubled in the past century, leaving low-level coastal areas like Miami-Dade County increasingly vulnerable to flooding.
  • A survey conducted in 2017 showed that most participants had a high level of awareness of and concern for sea-level rise impacts in their county.
  • Homeowners who participated were willing to support change over maintaining the status quo through the implementation of stormwater pumps, sea walls, and beach nourishment. Beach nourishment was the top preference.


Miami-Dade residents are most interested in proactive approaches to counteract sea-level rise, a newly published study reveals about a 2017 public opinion survey from University of Florida researchers.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, global sea levels are expected to rise an average of 10-12 inches by 2050. The low-lying coastal county of Miami-Dade is particularly vulnerable, especially as it concerns a population of nearly 2.7 million residents. By 2040, sea levels in the area may be 10 to 17 inches higher than they were in 2000, the county’s chief resilience officer predicts.

To better determine community preference and knowledge of adaptation options, a public opinion survey was conducted for 267 homeowners in Miami-Dade County in 2017. The study team included Xuqi Chen, who completed the project as a Ph.D. student in the UF/IFAS food and resource economics department (FRE) and is now assistant professor at the University of Tennessee’s department of agricultural and resource economics; Zhifeng Gao, FRE professor; and Xiang Bi, senior economist at Center for Economics in the U.S. Government Accountability Office, formerly with FRE.

“Projections have shown the number of residents affected by sea-level rise in Broward and Miami-Dade counties in Florida could easily account for more than a quarter of the impacted population nationwide,” Gao said. “Our results may be relevant to other coastal communities, as well, but nowhere else is such a large population as acutely at risk as Miami-Dade at this moment.”

Residents believe that sea-level rise is occurring and are concerned about hurricane and flooding impacts.

 To better gauge the current beliefs of Miami-Dade citizens, participants were asked to rate their agreement with several statements on a 5-point scale. Over three-quarters (75.6%) either strongly agreed or agreed that the sea level is rising, and most (67.8%) either strongly agreed or agreed that the rate of that sea level rise is increasing.

In addition, a majority indicated a belief that sea-level rise was causing negative impacts to their area.

About two-thirds (63.7%) agree or strongly agree that more frequent flooding is due to sea-level rise, and 43.8% of respondents agreed that the intensity of hurricanes has increased due to sea-level rise.

“If the public does not perceive that the sea level is rising and could be dangerous, then they are less likely to support policies implement sea-level rise adaptation strategies,” Chen said. “Public perceptions are important to learn as policymakers consider such actions.”

All things considered, a proactive approach is preferred.

Participants were presented with information outlining the function, advantages and limitations of three different adaptation strategies: stormwater pumps, sea walls and beach nourishment.

Most respondents preferred beach nourishment strategies, which place additional sand in coastal areas with a sediment deficit to combat shoreline erosion.

Seawalls, which are physical structures engineered and placed parallel to the shoreline to block storm surges and high tides, were the second most favored option. Stormwater pumps, designed to pump large amounts of water away to reduce flooding during heavy rainfall, ranked as the least preferred.

The full article is now available for download at


Alena Poulin
Posted: May 2, 2023

Category: Coasts & Marine, UF/IFAS Research
Tags: Food And Resource Economics

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