Denial begins to look like psychosis.
Just in the past week, a cascade of new findings and climate anomalies have added to the scientific consensus that we’re cooked. Miami in particular.
We’re seeing wildfires in Greenland, for heaven’s sake. Famously soggy Seattle has just gone through a record 54 consecutive days (and counting) without rain.
On Thursday, Arctic explorer Pen Hadow left Nome, Alaska, in a 50-foot sailboat intent on something unfathomable before the onset of global warming. He and his crew intend to sail through the melting ice pack to the very North Pole. “If we can produce a visual image of a sail boat at 90 degrees north I think that could become an iconic image of the challenge that the twenty-first century faces,” Hadow wrote in his blog.
That image would nicely illustrate the National Climate Assessment draft report publicized this week by the New York Times. “Evidence for a changing climate abounds, from the top of the atmosphere to the depths of the oceans,” noted the assessment, based on input by scientists from 13 different federal agencies.
Scientists involved in the report were worried that Donald Trump, our climate-denier-in-chief (a Chinese hoax, he called global warming) would suppress the final report, which concluded that it was “extremely likely” that human activity accounted for more than half of the rising global temperatures since 1951.
The assessment makes for particularly gloomy reading in South Florida, where rising waters already plague our ritziest zip codes. “It is very likely that the accelerated rate of Arctic warming will have a significant consequence for the United States due to accelerating land and sea ice melting that is driving changes in the ocean including sea level rise threatening our coastal communities.”
Yeah, that’s us.
That ought to convince even the most obstinate politicians that unless something is done about greenhouse emissions, we’re in deep, deep (as in encroaching sea waters) trouble.
But there was more.
On Wednesday, researchers from the University of Florida published findings in the journal Geophysical Research Letters that sea levels along the southeast Atlantic coast, south of Cape Hatteras down to South Florida, are rising six times faster than the global averages. So if sea level rise is bad elsewhere, it’s going to be hell in Miami.
That was published the very same day that Swiss Re, a Switzerland-based reinsurance company, released an analysis that climate change and rising seas, in league with population growth and coastal development, has rendered Miami vulnerable to unimaginable losses if a Hurricane Andrew-sized storm strikes the city. “Losses in this case are estimated to be $100-$300 billion, making it the costliest natural disaster ever seen in the U.S.,” Swiss Re reported. Only $60-180 billion of Miami’s property losses would be covered by the private insurance market, “leaving a huge shortfall in funding to rebuild.”
Swiss Re added that “risk mitigation and climate adaptation are keys to strengthening community resilience.”
That ought to be obvious. Except we have a president in Washington and a governor and a speaker of the House in Tallahassee who pretend global warming is some kind of liberal invention. Two years ago, employees of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection claimed they had been barred from using the terms “climate change” or “global warming” in emails, reports or official communications. That doesn’t sound like an administration ready to confront Florida’s coming climate crisis.
Meanwhile, a dozen of Florida’s U.S. representatives and one of its U.S. senators (Marco Rubio) are essentially climate change deniers.
They’ve somehow held onto their “it ain’t happening” beliefs even during what the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has described as the second-warmest year in the contiguous United States (so far) in 123 years of record keeping. In case you didn’t notice, July was the hottest month ever in Miami, according to Climate Central.
While 2016 was the second warmest year on record (after 2012) in the U.S., it was the hottest ever for the planet. NOAA reports that 16 of the 17 warmest years on record, worldwide, have occurred since 2001.
Yet our pols pretend otherwise. (They ignore a report on the effects of climate change in Architectural Digest that said rising seas have made South Florida “the worst metropolitan area in the country in regards to storm surge risk, with an estimated 780,000 homes potentially affected.”)
They just keep denying. Even during a week when a Russian tanker, without an ice breaker escort, was able to traverse the Arctic with a load of liquid natural gas. In a week when the Asian Development Bank warned that, “unabated climate change” would lead to “disastrous climate impacts for the people of Asia and the Pacific.” Which echoed a study published this week in the journal Science Advances warning that "Climate change, without mitigation, presents a serious and unique risk in South Asia, a region inhabited by about one-fifth of the global human population, due to an unprecedented combination of severe natural hazard and acute vulnerability." The journal warned that "the most intense hazard from extreme future heat waves is concentrated around densely populated agricultural regions of the Ganges and Indus river basins."
It was a week when geologists warned that “all glaciers in Iceland are retreating at an unprecedented pace.” A week when a study published in the Lancet Planetary Health declared, “Climate change is one of the biggest global threats to human health of the 21st century.”
So much dire news in single week. Not that our steadfastly oblivious leaders in Washington and Tallahassee were deterred by melting glaciers or droughts or wildfires or record temperatures or rising seas or disappearing polar ice or threats to human health. Deniers just keep on denying.