Throughout Earth's history, the shape of the continents has changed dramatically. With the planet's temperatures rising, we can expect to see some of these geological changes in our lifetimes — especially when it comes to low-lying areas like Florida. Here's what might be in store for that state.
Jeff Goodell has a fascinating article over at Rolling Stone about what will happen to Miami over the next 30 years as storm surges get higher and sea levels rise too.
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.
What's interesting about this article is that Goodell does an amazing job tracking the economic and urban infrastructural efforts to preserve Miami in the face of rising waters. He makes it clear that this isn't some pie-in-the-sky problem — or something to be debated in Congress. It's a problem that's as concrete as preparing for the next earthquake in California or the next round of tornadoes in the midwest.
It's a great longread for your afternoon — highly recommended. Check out the whole article on Rolling Stone.