Yeah, It's Pretty Much Time to Panic Over Climate Change (Miami Edition)

Last Friday, the Guardian featured a long article by science reporter Robin McKie. The title is pretty much a succinct summary of the entire piece: "Miami, the great world city, is drowning while the powers that be look away." Writing after a visit to Miami, McKie says that, due to rising oceans, "Tidal surges are turned into walls of seawater that batter Miami Beach's west coast and sweep into the resort's storm drains, reversing the flow of water that normally comes down from the streets above. Instead seawater floods up into the gutters of Alton Road, the first main thoroughfare on the western side of Miami Beach, and pours into the street. Then the water surges across the rest of the island."

He lays on the apocalyptic adjectives, calling it "calamitous" and "worthy of the Old Testament." He quotes local professors and scientists on how fucked Miami will be when the inevitable occurs (including a Fukushima-like event possible at Turkey Creek nuclear power plant), and he points out that most of Florida's major political voices are climate change denialists. It's a grim, shit-yourself, panicky article.

Miami Beach resident and Time magazine correspondent Michael Grunwald absolutely is in the "Yes, climate change is real" camp. But his response to McKie is curious, calling it "yellow climate journalism" and an overwrought bunch of hysteria. Yet here's his own description of what occurs, with regularity, in Miami Beach: "[I]t’s hard to see how some modest sunny-day flooding in my neighborhood at high tide justifies" McKie's warnings.

Now, the Rude Pundit is a former resident of both Florida and Louisiana. He's used to living in low, low land. He's used to floods occurring after storms. But during high tide on a nice day? Is that not seriously scary shit? Sure, sure, one can adjust to anything, but if you don't realize that "once-a-month ankle-deep water" is desperately wrong and deserving of immediate and serious responses, you're kind of deluding yourself.

Also attacking McKie and supporting Grunwald is Discover's Keith Kloor, who dismisses McKie as "hyperbolic" and "shouty." He rightly points out efforts being made already on protecting the area from the effects of climate change, citing a meeting of "the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact" where "several hundred officials and concerned citizens gathered in Fort Lauderdale (at just a few feet above sea level) to debate and plan for the inevitable rising of the sea." Very calm. Very rational.

Except that a month after that May meeting, on July 1, Miami-Dade County's Sea Level Rise Task Force released a report that said, in so many words, "Yeah, it's time to shit ourselves, panic, clean off, and do something now."

The Task Force, which studied the issue for five years after being put together by the County Commission, lays it out pretty starkly: Sea level rise is happening because of warming oceans and melting ice. "It is a measurable, trackable, inevitable reality. Without innovative adaptive capital planning it will threaten trillions of dollars of the region's built environment, our future water supply, our unique natural resources, our agricultural soils, and our basic economy."

Yeah, we're way beyond poo-pooing the occasional high tide flooding your streets with ankle deep water (which the Rude Pundit still can't get his head around as being something you rationally accept). Maybe we need a few more climate change writers like McKie to get shouty before the water reaches your knees, your groin, your chest...