Emerging Legal and Institutional Responses to Sea-Level Rise in Florida and Beyond

58 Pages Posted: 18 Apr 2016 Last revised: 21 Dec 2016

See all articles by David L. Markell

David L. Markell

Florida State University - College of Law

Date Written: April 15, 2016


The legal environment for local government in Florida is beginning to change when it comes to sea-level rise (sometimes referred to as SLR). Innovations in institutional structure and governance strategies are underway in the State as well. This paper reviews three recent developments, which relate primarily to comprehensive planning in the State, and explores their implications for Florida’s local governments, among others. It begins with the State’s decision, in 2011 legislation, to give local governments a new, optional tool – referred to as “Adaptation Action Areas” (AAAs) – to address sea-level rise and related issues in local comprehensive plans. The paper then turns to a second piece of Florida legislation, this one enacted in 2015, which also identifies sea-level rise as a concern but this time mandates that local governments begin to address it and other causes of flood-related risks through their comprehensive planning process. Finally, the paper discusses a third initiative, launched in 2009 by four Southeast Florida counties – Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, and Monroe – to foster local government and regional coordination on sea-level rise and other climate change issues. This review of these three developments provides a relatively in-depth starting point for understanding key features of the emerging legal and institutional landscape in Florida for addressing sea-level rise, especially with respect to comprehensive planning. It thereby contributes to filling an enormous knowledge deficit concerning adaptation initiatives.

More broadly, efforts such as this to review and analyze ongoing developments in legal regimes and institutional structure contribute to a still-nascent but rapidly expanding legal literature that explores the implications of climate change for environmental and other legal regimes. Several scholars have recently asserted that current legal regimes and institutional arrangements will require significant reform because of the stresses associated with climate change. This article highlights the importance of close attention to key features of effective governance, especially the legal regimes, institutional structures, and governance strategies that provide the backdrop for action. These features provide important frames for contextualizing the challenges we face and options for meeting them.

Suggested Citation

Markell, David L., Emerging Legal and Institutional Responses to Sea-Level Rise in Florida and Beyond (April 15, 2016). FSU College of Law, Public Law Research Paper No. 796, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2765569 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2765569

David L. Markell (Contact Author)

Florida State University - College of Law ( email )

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