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Trying to Stay Above Water—Literally

March 29, 2012

Here’s a fun fact:  The average elevation of the City of Miami is 6 feet above sea level.

Fort Lauderdale is a teensy bit higher at 9 feet, but not so much in the areas with the canals, yachts, and fancy houses.

Miami Beach’s average elevation is just 4 feet.  According to the city’s official website:  “All properties within the City of Miami Beach are located within the Special “Flood Hazard Area”. ,,, There is a 26% chance of being flooded over the life of a thirty (30) year mortgage.”

Given that, the prospect of a rise in sea level resulting from global climate change should give South Floridians something to think about.  There is virtually full consensus among climate scientists that sea levels are rising because of melting of polar ice caps and expansion due to higher ocean temperatures.  The only debate is over how much and how fast.  Recent studies suggest that the rise may be faster and sooner, and that we will be seeing significant effects within a few decades, not centuries.

You don’t really need to know exactly how much it will be.  Even a one-foot rise would have an impact on some of the area’s priciest real estate.  Check out this fascinating interactive map, which shows areas threatened by a rise in sea level between 1 and 10 feet.  You can zoom in on the map and pan around to adjacent areas in Broward as well as Miami-Dade.  If your house is near the water, the effect may be pretty sobering.

The potential effect isn’t just limited to flooding and increasing destruction from hurricane storm surges.  Rising sea levels also threaten fresh water aquifers with contamination from salt water.

You might think that Florida’s elected officials would be leading the effort to reduce greenhouse gases that accelerate warming and rise in sea level.  But you would be wrong—at least as regards the Republicans.

Governor Rick Scott denies human influence on climate change.  He (and several area congress members, including Senator Marco Rubio, and Rep. David Rivera) signed the “No Climate Tax” pledge promulgated by the Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity.

Marco Rubio has said that he doesn’t accept the scientific evidence for climate change, and has voted against cap-and-trade to lower greenhouse gas emissions.

Rep.  Allen West:  “If we could just get President Obama and former Vice-President Al Gore to apologize to God reference “man-made global warming/climate change” perhaps we would not all be freezing, even in South Florida!”

Mario Diaz-Balart pretends to be all agnostic and reasonable about climate change, but pulls out every possible bullshit argument against the science whenever he speaks on the subject.  Watch this hilarious video where he sounds like the SNL character Nicholas Fehn uttering one non-sequitur after another.

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is a little wobbly on the issue.  She actually said in 2009 that “global warming is real and man-made.”  But when it comes to voting, she goes with her Republican colleagues.  For example, she joined all of the South Florida Republican congressional delegation in voting to bar the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases and has opposed “cap and trade.”

The South Florida Democratic delegation (Frederica Wilson, Ted Deutsch, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, and Alcee Hastings) seem to get it, and have voted the opposite way on these issues.  But of course, they are in the minority now.

The League of Conservation Voters’ latest ratings score the local Republican congress members between 9 and 20 percent.  The Democrats’ scores range from 80 to 100 percent.

I suppose the head-in-the-sand posture by elected officials reflects the take-the-money-and-run mentality that has characterized so much of this state’s development—but it will be a tragic legacy if the science is right.  (Sorry about the mixed metaphor.)

Meanwhile, if you live in Hialeah or Lauderhill and have always wanted waterfront property, just be patient.  You may get your wish!

Postscript:  Check out this post at Eye on Miami.

From → Environment, Politics

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