Important headlines for May 9th – Sea Level rise – Common Sense or Sensationalism?
Bottom Line: These are stories you shouldn't miss and my takes on them...
Three newspapers confront one challenge: Sea-level rise is real, South Florida needs all hands on deck — now - Miami Herald - Sea Level Rise in South Florida
Excerpt: No graver threat faces the future of South Florida than the accelerating pace of sea-level rise. In the past century, the sea has risen 9 inches in Key West. In the past 23 years, it’s risen 3 inches. By 2060, it’s predicted to rise another 2 feet, with no sign of slowing down.
Think about that. Water levels could easily be 2 feet higher in 40 years. And scientists say that’s a conservative estimate. Because of melting ice sheets and how oceans circulate, there’s a chance South Florida’s sea level could be 3 feet higher by 2060 and as much as 8 feet by 2100, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
It’s not just a matter of how much land we’re going to lose, though the barrier islands and low-lying communities will be largely uninhabitable once the ocean rises by 3 feet. It’s a matter of what can be saved. And elsewhere, how we’re going to manage the retreat.
Of the 25 American cities most vulnerable to sea-level rise, 22 are in Florida, according to the nonprofit research group Climate Central. They’re not all along the coast, either. Along with New York City and Miami, the inland cities of Pembroke Pines, Coral Springs and Miramar round out the top five.
Flooding also is increasing in South Florida’s western communities — like Miami-Dade’s Sweetwater and The Acreage in Palm Beach County — because seawater is pushing inward through our porous limestone foundation and upward into our aged flood control systems, diminishing capacity.
More than the rest of the country, South Floridians get it. The Yale Climate Opinion Maps show 75 percent of us believe global warming is happening, even if we don’t all agree on the cause.
Hot Take: Let's talk related facts first. It's a fact that the climate's always changing. It's a fact that there's been evidence of global warming (higher average temperatures) in recent years. It's a fact that we have been experiencing higher sea levels. It's also a fact that scientific predictions on climate change and global warming have been wildly off-base historically. Pull headlines from the 70's and 80's if you're uncertain. There are some other pretty important facts that need to come into play about our role and how we factor into this debate about what to do to be responsible stewards of our environment.
The United States accounts for 15% of all carbon released into the environment. That means that even if we didn't exist as a population of people 85% of what happens is beyond our control, so context is key. What percentage of global warming is influenced by human factors? Then of that percentage consider that we're just 15% of it in this country. Florida's 6.3% of the US population, or responsible for .9% of the world's carbon output. South Florida, Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties are 29% of Florida's population. That means that South Florida accounts for .26% of the world's carbon output. Context is key for this entire conversation. We have one planet and we should be responsible with it. Just because we can't meaningfully move the needle in South Florida – even if everyone were as responsible as possible, doesn't mean we shouldn't be responsible for what we can control. That being said that's not the only important consideration. Are we making progress? The answer is yes.
Carbon output per capita peaked in the US in the 1920's and over the past decade we've had net declines of carbon released in our society in six of the ten years including 2017 through improvements in technology and efficiencies in energy consumption ranging from power plants to automobiles, etc. It stands to reason that pollution isn't good for anyone or anything regardless of the potential impact of temperatures. It's also true that one of the top two reasons we love South Florida is the environment.
The key is common sense, pragmatic, environmentalism rather than radical government overreach. It's my hope that we move forward with pragmatic policy in South Florida that balances responsibility along with our economy, affordability, etc. I'm also hopeful that the most dire future projections aren't the baseline for decisions as they've never been credible previously.
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Hot Take: A reminder that Donald Trump is President and Kanye West is making a lot of sense...