Miami Beach waging a battle against sea level rise
It was the night of the blood moon. A clear evening. Not a hint of rain. I was riding my bike from the beach along Las Olas Boulevard when my imagination got the better of me.
Suddenly, I had this peculiar impression that large stretches of the road just west of the Intracoastal Waterway had simply disappeared. That the canals had overflowed. That I was pedaling blindly through 18 inches of water, the first time in three decades of biking down Fort Lauderdale’s most famous street that I had encountered so much flooding.
No doubt, those damn rogue climate scientists were indulging in mind control.
Apparently, most of Miami Beach has been suffering from similar delusions. The Herald’s Joey Flechas and Jenny Staletovich documented how the Beach has been re-engineering streets and seawalls and installing 80 pumps across the city in a frantic $500 million attempt to stave off the effects of a climate phenomenon that — as far as Congress is concerned — doesn’t exist.
Monroe and Broward counties are in a similar panic over the encroaching waters. And the complexities South Florida’s civic leaders anticipate go beyond flooded neighborhoods and impassable streets. They’re worried about salt water intrusion into the well fields, about gravity-powered drainage canals and sewer systems that only work if sea levels stay put. Staletovich reported that the new pumps on Miami Beach are polluting Biscayne Bay with phosphorus, nitrogen and street crap that’s murdering the bay’s ecology.
Congress thinks we’re making this up. (Gov. Rick Scott doesn’t believe us either. Last summer, Florida’s climate-change-skeptic-in-chief vetoed a $750,000 allocation for Miami Beach’s pumping program, declaring that flood control “does not provide a clear return on investment.”)
The problem’s that climate scientists (except for those on the payroll of Koch Industries and ExxonMobil) have been filling our silly heads with scary stuff about global warming and rising seas. Well, Congress knows how to deal with discomfiting scientific findings. Cut off the funding.
Last week, the New York Times reported on a harrowing and dangerous expedition onto the receding Greenland ice sheets, where hydrologists have discovered new, uncharted rivers rushing through ever-more-porous glaciers. It’s the kind of research that could tell South Florida how much sea rise to expect. And how soon.
But U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas, chairman of the House science committee and a raving global warming skeptic, intends to cut $300 million from the federal budget for earth science research — including the Greenland project. Last month, just to harass uncooperative climate geeks, Smith issued a slew of subpoenas to scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration demanding “all documents and communications” having to do with climate change.
Smith intends to stanch this unwelcome data stream. (Just as Congress — in homage to the NRA — used funding cuts to keep the Centers for Disease Control from researching gun violence.)
Oh yeah. That high tide that South Floridians thought was flooding their streets last week? Obviously, they were up to their knees in misinformation.