Driving around Miami Beach during Sundays high tide, shooting video and surveying the flooding, I was shocked by peoples reaction to the calf-deep water they were walking in. Their response to my question, Why is the water so high? was, It must be a broken water pipe. Upon being told that global warming was the cause and sea level rise the culprit, they seemed incredulous.
This lack of knowledge or denial of fact the two go hand in hand sometimes mirrors what our elected politicians and big oil, gas, coal and power companies have been pushing on the American public for years. Climate change is just a theory and has not been established through scientific vetting. Wrong!
Ninety-nine percent of all climate scientists believe that man-made forcings have altered the worlds climate and will continue to do so as we pollute the atmosphere with many more tons of carbon dioxide year after year. Rather than embrace a sound philosophy of carbon reduction through the development of renewable sources of clean energy, sound forestry practices and sustainable agriculture, we have done just the opposite, acting like an addicted cigarette smoker swearing to quit tomorrow and smoking three packs the day before, then never quitting.
We are told that our new sources of oil, gas and coal will lower fuel and electricity prices. But I have not seen my gas or electricity prices go down much at all. Prices are set on a global scale, and the energy producers in the United States will take their profits just like the rest of the world. Why would they sell to the American people at a reduced rate, even as the United States is poised to become the largest oil producer in the world?
The simple fact is that we cannot afford to wait any longer before making the intellectual and capital investment on retooling how we produce and consume energy. Germany is a case in point. It produces 25 percent of its electricity needs from wind and solar. By 2022 it expects to produce 50 percent of its power needs with renewables. Germany has accomplished this with an added tax on electricity bills. That alone should be enough to persuade us of this needed change, but heaven forbid that a U.S. politician should ever advance this line of thought.
We need to take a close look at what is at stake if we fail to make these critical changes.
Florida Power & Light is tacking design costs for Turkey Points new reactors on our bills today, and this surcharge (tax) could increase significantly should construction begin on the $28-billion project. Yet there is no public outcry. If people understood the true costs involved with inaction, we would be moving forward with a new energy initiative at a pace indicative of the perils we face.
Consider: A Tufts University study predicts that Miami-Dade County will suffer $3.5 trillion in infrastructure loss by 2100 because of sea -level rise induced by global warming. Factoring in the rest of coastal America facing the same rise in sea level, the fiscal results of climate inaction could well turn the United States into a third-world country when faced with this fiscal burden.
The next time you are driving around coastal Miami-Dade on a clear and sunny day and see flooded streets, know that Mother Nature is sending you a message. Its time to face this issue and throw all the resources this great nation has to offer into solving the greatest threat that mankind will ever face.
Miami-Dade County and all its cities need to plan for the future with a clear understanding of the challenges we face. The time of denial is over, and without quick and definitive action we, too, shall sink beneath rising seas.
Capt. Dan Kipnis is a member of the Biscayne Bay Regional Restoration Coordination Team.