As hope fades additional survivors will be rescued and scores are feared dead in the rubble of the Champlain Towers condo building that collapsed near Miami Beach on Thursday, impacts due to climate change are increasingly thought to have been a possible contributing factor in the tragedy. Official investigations are just getting underway and a formal determination may take months, but a damning 2018 report warned of major structural damage to the 40-year-old building’s foundations, noting among other issues that the waterproofing beneath the pool had been improperly laid flat instead of sloped, preventing water from draining off and causing severe cracks.
Researchers say the condo was in an area of reclaimed land found to be sinking at a rate of 2 millimeters a year due to natural factors such as sinkholes, as well as human activities such as fossil fuel extraction and sea level rise caused by global warming. Experts pointed to the possibility that increasingly frequent sunny day flooding, pushing brackish seawater up into the groundwater and against the porous limestone bedrock, may have corroded the building’s steel support structure and caused its cement foundation to be constantly wet and weakened.
Florida’s coast has long been acknowledged as one of the areas in the U.S. most vulnerable to climate impacts, facing damage from more extreme tropical storms, coastal erosion and flooding. Combined with shoddy workmanship and lax enforcement of building codes common in Florida construction from the 1970s and 80s, the risks to Florida’s fragile coastal real estate are no longer decades or even years away, but immediate. (Champlain Towers: Washington Post $, New York Times $, USA Today, AP, AP, NPR; Sea level rise: Washington Post $, Washington Post $, Gizmodo, Slate, Palm Beach Post, Yahoo, HuffPost)