Miami may become a Climate Change barometer.
My grandmother once told me a joke. You know what an optimist is? That is someone who falls off a 100 story building, passes a friend at the 50th floor, and yells “don’t worry, I am still fine!”
We could change that to “reality denier” and it would explain the war of climate change.
The Guardian has an interesting story from last friday about the official reaction to climate change in Miami. Interestingly, climate change is very observable in Miami, and yet if you thought that being confronted by facts up close and personal would change the tone of those with their heads in the sand, well, you may not understand the human condition.
Miami is something of a perfect location for watching the climate change war. In a southern state that has seen its share of GOP members, and with a older skewing population it can be more conservative than many similarly sized cities. As a major city it also has a fair amount of big business concern, and the city is largely run by climate denialist voices. On the other hand, unlike many North American cities, it is low lying, resting on a porous rock foundation, and very nearly directly on the ocean. These factors mean that it is almost a climate change political cartoon in real life. Rising sea levels are regularly flooding whole sections of the city, even while conservative voices insist that there is no such thing.
How much is the sea a threat to Miami? Like Norfolk Virginia, many places of business have begun warning customers not to try to come to certain locations during high tides. Sea water has begun to regularly (especially in spring and autumn) rise up through the cannel and sewage systems and flood roads. Parking garages are often empty on the lowest level because people are simply tired of repairing salt water damage to their vehicles. City engineers have pointed out that if the levels rise very much higher that the drainage system they currently use to let heavy rains out into the ocean will instead start letting the ocean into the city.
The city is literally on the verge of collapse.
“The thing about Miami is that when it goes, it will all be gone,” says Stoddard. “I used to work at Cornell University and every morning, when I went to work, I climbed more elevation than exists in the entire state of Florida. Our living-room floor here in south Miami is at an elevation of 10 feet above sea level at present. There are significant parts of south Florida that are less than six feet above sea level and which are now under serious threat of inundation.”
Nor will south Florida have to wait that long for the devastation to come. Long before the seas have risen a further three or four feet, there will be irreversible breakdowns in society, he says. “Another foot of sea-level rise will be enough to bring salt water into our fresh water supplies and our sewage system. Those services will be lost when that happens,” says Stoddard.
“You won’t be able to flush away your sewage and taps will no longer provide homes with fresh water. Then you will find you will no longer be able to get flood insurance for your home. Land and property values will plummet and people will start to leave. Places like South Miami will no longer be able to raise enough taxes to run our neighbourhoods. Where will we find the money to fund police to protect us or fire services to tackle house fires? Will there even be enough water pressure for their fire hoses? It takes us into all sorts of post-apocalyptic scenarios. And that is only with a one-foot sea-level rise. It makes one thing clear though: mayhem is coming.”
But the response from GOP starts like Rubio? Ain’t real, and even if it was, we couldn’t stop it.
Or, as thinkprogress points out,
Rather than trumpeting this reality, Michael Grunwald, TIME’s senior national correspondent — and a Miami resident — has decided to write a piece attacking the Guardian mostly on semantic grounds:
Well, we’re not actually drowning. We do get damp every now and then, but it’s hard to see how some modest sunny-day flooding in my neighborhood at high tide justifies The Guardian headline that’s been generating so much buzz: “Miami, the great world city, is drowning while the powers that be look away.”
Sure, every once in a while we inhale some salt water, but look at the nice sunny day! And it isn’t all the time!
The real question is, can a wealthy major city, in the self styled greatest, wealthiest, and most powerful nation on earth, manage to save itself, or will it simply slowly sink beneath the waves while we watch it happen, swearing that we are just fine the whole way down?