Sunday, June 24, 2012

Rising seas mean shrinking South Florida future

Curtis Morgan in the Miami Herald: The subject of global warming has become so politically unpalatable over the last few years that neither party mentions it much anymore. A conference on climate change sponsored by Florida Atlantic University made it clear that ignoring the threat has done nothing to slow it down — particularly in South Florida, which has more people and property at risk by rising sea levels than any place in the country.

The two-day summit in Boca Raton, which wrapped up Friday, painted a bleak and water-logged picture for much of coastal Florida. Under current projections, the Atlantic Ocean would swallow much of the Florida Keys in 100 years. Miami-Dade, in turn, would eventually replace them as a chain of islands on the highest parts of the coastal limestone ridge, bordered by the ocean on one side and an Everglades turned into a salt water bay on the other.

Ben Strauss, chief operating officer of Climate Central, an independent research and journalism organization, warned that much of the southern peninsula south of Lake Okeechobee would be virtually uninhabitable within 250 years.

“There’s good reason to believe southern Florida will eventually have to be evacuated,” Strauss told some 275 scientists and climate and planning experts from government agencies, insurance companies, construction experts and other businesses likely to be impacted by rising seas.

While scientists can’t yet predict with certainty how fast and high seas will eventually rise, there is no disputing South Florida will be ground zero for the earliest major impacts, said Leonard Barry, director of FAU’s Florida Center for Environmental Studies. “The sky is not falling, but the waters are rising,” he said. “We need to recognize that, prepare for that and begin to address it."...

Flooding caused by 1960's Hurricane Donna at Biscayne Blvd. in Miami, Florida, shot by NOAA

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