New luxury towers crowd Sunny Isles Beach, Florida. Miami and its suburbs face a bigger financial risk from flooding in 2050 than any other urban area in the world.
New luxury towers crowd Sunny Isles Beach, Florida. Miami and its suburbs face a bigger financial risk from flooding in 2050 than any other urban area in the world.

Treading Water

Florida’s bill is coming due, as the costs of climate change add up around the globe. Adaptations will buy time, but can they save Miami?

Frank Behrens, a gregarious pitchman for a Dutch development company that sees profit, not loss, in climate change, cuts the engine on our 22-foot Hurricane runabout. We drift through brackish water toward the middle of privately owned Maule Lake in North Miami Beach.

It’s not quite paradise.

The lake, like so many others in Florida, began as a rock quarry. In the years since, it has served as a venue for boat races, a swimming hole for manatees, and a set for the 1960s TV show Flipper. More recently, as if to underscore the impermanence of South Florida’s geography, more than one developer has toyed with partially filling in the lake to build condos. Behrens is promoting a floating village with 29 private, artificial islands, each with a sleek, four-bedroom villa, a sandy beach, a pool, palm trees, and a dock long enough to accommodate an 80-foot yacht. The price: $12.5 million apiece.

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