(Bloomberg) — A South Florida developer is questioning the well-established facts of climate change, and is putting his money where his mouth is, investing millions to build residential projects in highly exposed Miami Beach.

Brazilian billionaire Jose Isaac Peres is hosting an inaugural party Thursday for the sales center of his planned 81-unit 57 Ocean, where the penthouse will cost $31 million. He’s also seeking permission to build another condo project, a four-story development on Ocean Drive.

 

The real estate magnate and chief executive officer of shopping-center developer Multiplan Empreendimentos Imobiliarios SA said he isn’t factoring in the financial risk of rising sea levels. Asked about the threat, he told a story about his youth in Brazil in the 1950s, when seawater sometimes encroached on buildings, suggesting ocean levels have risen and receded forever.

“It’s funny, that’s the last concern that I have here in Miami, that global-warming issue,” he said in an interview Wednesday.

Peres, who’s making significant investments in Miami Beach for the first time in almost two decades, said climate change has never come up with the banks and insurance companies he’s dealt with in Brazil.

 

“You’re leaning toward paranoia, you know?” he said, suggesting that Americans are more fixated on the study of climate change than Brazilians are. “You see a ghost, and you run after it as if it were real.” Still, Peres didn’t fully discount global warming, instead saying he didn’t think it was going to occur “as quickly as people imagine.”

‘Wouldn’t Be Bad’

Peres’ climate-change skepticism follows similar statements by a number of high-profile politicians and business leaders, most of them not scientists themselves. Over the weekend, as much of the U.S. coped with freezing temperatures, President Donald Trump tweeted, “Wouldn’t be bad to have a little of that good old fashioned Global Warming right now!” (Trump’s statement erroneously confused short-term weather fluctuations with climate, a long-term aggregate, adding to his history of distorting climate-related facts.) Brazil’s new president, Jair Bolsonaro, has also questioned climate change.

 

It’s not the first time a Florida developer has downplayed the threats of climate change. Jorge Perez, the billionaire CEO of Related Group, told Jeff Goodell, author of “The Water Will Come: Rising Seas, Sinking Cities and the Remaking of the Civilized World,” at an art-museum gala that he needn’t worry: “In 20 or 30 years, someone is going to find a solution for this. Besides, by that time, I’ll be dead, so what does it matter?”

 

Perez later said in an interview with the Miami Herald, “Maybe I had too many drinks,” and that he had no recollection of the conversation. He apologized for the quote, and said he was encouraging the active pursuit of climate solutions.

South Florida officials, meanwhile, aren’t ignoring the threats posed by climate change. Miami Beach has committed to spending $500 million for seawalls and raised roads, and City of Miami voters have approved $400 million in bonds partly to combat issues related to rising sea levels.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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