By Tony Kendzior \ November 7, 2019 \ Gainesville, FL
Part 1 appeared as a blog post on May 20, 2019. I wrote about how Florida, with an estimated 8,436 miles of coastline, is facing an existential threat from climate change. I was led to believe by experts that by 2050, a short 30 years from now, people in southeast Florida could expect a sea level rise of 2 – 3 feet.
I invite you to go to this web site: https://coast.noaa.gov/slr/ It will invite you to name a coastal city, and on the left you can move a cursor associated with sea level rise. The only reason you might think this is all a hoax is if you believe everything is normal and that it will stay that way. If you do a google search for ‘noaa sea level rise calculator’, you’ll find several other places to explore the idea.
A CBS news story on October 29th had this headline: Rising sea levels on track to destroy the homes of 300 million people by 2050. We can assume if that happens, most of them will not be in the US. Can you imagine the humanitarian pressures that will be unleashed across the planet if that happens? At what point will it start, since we won’t suddenly wake up one day and it’s there. It will happen gradually over the next 30 years. https://tinyurl.com/y5f2v4p3
A New York Magazine online article also appeared on October 29th with this headline: Rising seas are going to drown way more cities than we’d thought: Study. Here’s a paragraph from the article: In its optimistic scenario, the Princeton study projects that lands currently occupied by 150 million people will lie below high tide in 2050. At mid-century, that number is all but certain to be higher because of both population growth and internal migration. Between now and 2050, the percentage of the global population living in urban areas is expected to increase from 55 to 68 percent. And climate change could accelerate migration from rural areas to coastal cities as warming devastates many of the world’s agricultural regions. In other words, many coastal cities in the developing world are likely to see influxes of climate refugees, just as rising tides begin displacing their existing populations. https://tinyurl.com/y2dc6e8u
And all of this has happened before, albeit long before you and I were born. We think of life in hours, days and years. That’s our normal frame of reference. It’s estimated we humans have been around for maybe 200,000 years. Our planet has a mind boggling age of some 4 BILLION YEARS, so when I read that sea levels some 125,000 years ago were about 10 metres (32.8 feet) higher than they are now, we know sea levels go up and down.
That last rise came during Earth’s last warm period. Here’s a telling paragraph from another article. https://tinyurl.com/y2wvacka Try this on for size: The Earth is presently in an interglacial period which began about 10,000 years ago. But greenhouse gas emissions over the past 200 years have caused climate changes that are faster and more extreme than experienced during the last interglacial. This means past rates of sea level rise provide only low-end predictions of what might happen in the future.
I live in what is known as north central Florida, as do my children and grandchildren. Chances are we’re going to stay above sea level for a long time. But make no mistake, changes to our way of life are coming. I don’t have a solution for any of this and I’m not going to stay awake at night worrying about it. But I do think it’s important we anticipate the effects of what is clearly happening and take steps to apply resources at the state and local level in anticipation. There is already financial pressure on some of Florida’s coastal areas as fewer people are buying properties that will most likely be flooded in 30 years.
Some of those folks are going to move to north central Florida, and they too are going to want food to eat, a place to live, transportation, and all the other things we take for granted. You and I cannot fix the problem no matter how loudly we yell and rant. So we have to get smarter and pay attention and anticipate ‘cause it’s going to happen.