You may have heard that the sea levels are rising. You may have heard that over the next several decades, rising seas will threaten major coastal cities. You may have surmised that it's dumb, then, to build houses right by the water. Not Florida!

If public policy were run by rational people, there would now be some huge but orderly program to not only dissuade developers from building new houses on Florida's beaches, but also to encourage residents who do live directly on the beach to start seeking shelter elsewhere some time in the reasonably near future. That is not what Florida does at all, because Florida is very "Floridian" (dumb, and run by Republicans). If you appreciate Florida's natural beauty and enjoy developing a sick, sinking feeling in your gut, I invite you to peruse this week's excellent Reuters report on the depths of the arrogance and stupidity that are present in Florida's official approach to coastal development. You can't find a plainer slow motion disaster in the making anywhere this side of a ticking time bomb in a Tom and Jerry cartoon.

Between 1990 – when warnings were already being sounded on rising sea levels – and 2010, the United States added about 2.2 million new housing units to Census areas, known as block groups, with boundaries near the shore, a Reuters analysis found... Florida's 1,350 miles (2,173 km) of shoreline – the longest in the contiguous 48 states – accounted for a third of new coastal housing built.

That seems like an unwise pattern of development.

The oceans have risen about eight inches on average over the past century worldwide. The rise is two to three times greater in spots along the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean... Hurricanes slam into Florida more than anywhere else in the nation

But... all those houses... surely there must be... changes?

Out of 3,302 applications for permits to build residential structures on Florida's 825 miles of beaches since Jan. 1, 2000, just 114 have been denied, a Reuters analysis of state records shows.

I guess we can always just pump more sand onto the beaches, constantly, forever, as they continue to wash away?

Last year alone, the corps spent $150 million to replenish sand on 39 miles of Florida beaches.

At that rate, we can replenish all 1,350 miles of Florida's coastline for only $5.2 billion per year, each year.

All this development is clearly an affront to common sense. At least we're not all on the hook for these morons and their brand new beachfront palaces...

And many of the houses, condominiums and resorts that line the storm-battered beach are covered by federal flood insurance, a subsidized program that took up the slack when private insurers fled the state after Hurricane Andrew inflicted huge losses in 1992. Florida is the program's top customer among states. It has two million policies, many of them charging below-market rates, insuring $484 billion in property.

It won't be long now before the entire federal budget of the United States of America is earmarked for rebuilding Florida's beachfront homes that have been blown away in hurricanes, so that they can be swallowed by the rising sea the following year.

[Photo: Flickr]