Monday, December 9, 2019

They See Us Flooding

NOT SAVING THE KEYS: NEW YORK TIMES

It's an article worth reading, click the link above, if only to read how my neighbors just don't get it.  Take this resident of flooding Sugarloaf:

“What’s government for? They’re supposed to protect your property,” Mr. Silverman said from behind the wheel of his shallow skiff boat on a recent afternoon.

Others quoted in the article are more sanguine about the future acknowledging their time may be short and there is even mention of "stopping climate change" which would involve not only vastly more expense than raising the roads (!) which is bad enough but cutting emissions to make  a difference will require good deal more in terms of lifestyle changes. Overall there is some pervasive belief that something needs to be done to make the effects of climate change go away. 
The article was prompted by a  report presented to the Monroe County Commission by the County Sustainability Director. She estimated that by 2025 high tides would cover the old State Highway 4A along the south shore of Sugarloaf Key and the two dozen homes (that many?!) will be cut off by those high tides. To raise just three miles of road  15 inches, enough to keep it dry year round in 2025 will cost $75 million. Double that to keep it dry in 2045. With 300 miles of road to worry about the County Mayor's response according to The Times was to hope county staff had got their numbers wrong.
All this climate change angst has been brought into focus by Hurricane Dorian, the storm that wrecked the Bahamas and Ocracoke Island in North Carolina. I say that because this is the second article I've seen this Fall by the New York Times discussing Florida Keys flooding. I suppose it makes a change from watching California burn and Illinois drown. The so called "king tides" this year were prolonged for three months and that caused some anxiety as you might imagine.
The first two pictures I took in 2014, the one above a few weeks ago when the tides were flooding the trail. What happened was the hurricane blowing up the east coast stalled the Gulf Stream and blew water back into the Keys right at the time of extra high tides. They are caused every year in the Fall by the alignment of sun and moon whose combined strength creates extra high tides, so called "king tides." 
What all this means is that we got a sneak preview of what rising sea levels will do. Whats really scary to me is the official response: let's hope its not as bad as some people expect it will be. The reason I find that worrying is because it pretty much reflects my thinking on the subject. No one in charge can bring themselves to admit the truth of what's happening because they rightly fear being crucified by people whose biggest worry is their property values. The United States has been built to take advantage of internal combustion and turning that ship around with our distances, urban sprawl, and massive roadway investments is going to take more than wishing we could have public transit the way Europeans do. We don't live crushed together like they do. If you want modern serviceable transit we need to pile on and all live as though we were in Manhattan not Miami.
But even then are we going to reverse climate change? It is a situation that is causing unpleasantness everywhere. Alaskan villages have to be physically moved as sea level rises and the tundra melts. Australia has the most appalling drought and wildfires; storms wreck Asian coastlines and the Marshall islands are already half way sunk. But here in the US at mangrove central we are the hot topic of conversation. The Keys, everyone's vacation memory is only a few inches tall and already they are slipping away to oblivion. Bummer.
No, I had to reassure a friend, house prices aren't plummeting, everything looks normal in the Lower Keys. So far. But I expect we will get more attention as time goes by and the greenhouse effect keeps pressing down on us. The end of cheap electricity and air conditioning for all will empty out the Keys faster than rising seas I suspect. For now we keep calm and carry on. You should do the same.  There is no alternative.