Sea level rise will turn Miami into American Atlantis

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Screen capture Nickolay Lamm

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Jeff Goodell at Rolling Stone has a fascinating and disturbing piece on how sea level rise threatens Miami:

...the unavoidable truth is that sea levels are rising and Miami is on its way to becoming an American Atlantis. It may be another century before the city is completely underwater (though some more-pessimistic­ scientists predict it could be much sooner), but life in the vibrant metropolis of 5.5 million people will begin to dissolve much quicker, most likely within a few decades. The rising waters will destroy Miami slowly, by seeping into wiring, roads, building foundations and drinking-water supplies – and quickly, by increasing the destructive power of hurricanes. "Miami, as we know it today, is doomed," says Harold Wanless, the chairman of the department of geological sciences at the University of Miami. "It's not a question of if. It's a question of when."

Sea-level rise is not a hypothetical disaster. It is a physical fact of life on a warming planet, the basic dynamics of which even a child can understand: Heat melts ice. Since the 1920s, the global average sea level has risen about nine inches, mostly from the thermal expansion of the ocean water. But thanks to our 200-year-long fossil-fuel binge, the great ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica are starting to melt rapidly now, causing the rate of sea-level rise to grow exponentially. The latest research, including an assessment by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, suggests that sea level could rise more than six feet by the end of the century. James Hansen, the godfather of global-warming science, has argued that it could increase as high as 16 feet by then – and Wanless believes that it could continue rising a foot each decade after that. "With six feet of sea-level rise, South Florida is toast," says Tom Gustafson, a former Florida speaker of the House and a climate-change-policy advocate. Even if we cut carbon pollution overnight, it won't save us. Ohio State glaciologist Jason Box has said he believes we already have 70 feet of sea-level rise baked into the system.

Goodell does a great job of explaining how fresh water shortages will become a serious problem in South Florida, as well as explaining the lack of action being taken by Florida officials. Read the rest.

Noting the climate change denial among many Florida politicians, Joe Romm worries action won't be taken quickly enough:

So we need a combination of aggressive mitigation combined with massive spending to develop completely new adaptation solutions for Miami to have any serious chance of surviving this century intact.
Sadly, Florida is one of the last places in the country where such action and planning can be expected

Image: Nickolay Lamm created a series of GIFs illustrating how different American cities will be affected by sea level rise of 5, 12, and 25 feet. Above is "A view of Miami's South Beach, FL." See the rest at Mashable.

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