Climate change can’t be denied

Miami Herald Editorial Board

Earle this year, tourists braved high king tide flooding along Ocean Drive
Earle this year, tourists braved high king tide flooding along Ocean Drive WLRN

In a way, it’s a shame that President-elect Donald Trump’s resort here is located in Doral, rather than Miami Beach. If his property were closer to the water, we might be able to say: Welcome to our world, Mr. Trump.

Mr. Trump said during the campaign that climate change is a hoax. But no amount of denial can shield those of us who live and work here, or visitors, from the visible impact of rising seas. Flooded streets are not a hoax. Just ask the folks in Miami Beach, who have to navigate underwater neighborhoods with increasing frequency.

But don’t feel too smug if your home or business (or golf course) is located safely on the mainland. The rising water is coming your way — to Doral and to every other part of Florida close to the ocean. Even in a post-truth world, as some have called the new era of make-believe “information,” only the most obtuse would deny that the long-feared effects of climate change have arrived in our peninsular paradise.

This is our today, our everyday reality, our future. The question is whether we fight it — and how — or whether we ignore it. For most of us, denial is not an option. Local governments are on board. How could they not be? At the state level, Gov. Rick Scott seems like a lost cause. He won’t even let state agencies employ the phrase “climate change.”

But the federal government is the most important force in shaping environmental policy and climate change strategy. That’s where broad national standards are created, where national policy is set and where policies can have the most widespread and lasting impact. It’s where the nation sets an example for the rest of the planet. And, yes, it’s where the money is.

As a candidate, Mr. Trump could afford a wink-and-nod approach to climate change. As president, he has to become a pragmatic realist. In the real world, actual facts matter. Like the fact that October 2016 was the second warmest October on record, according to data released Tuesday by NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, falling just behind October 2015 by 0.18 degrees Celsius. Like the fact that 2016 is likely to be the third consecutive record-warm year in a row for the globe, topping 2015 and 2014, which currently occupy the No. 1 and 2 spots, respectively.

And while that data was being released, world leaders meeting in Morocco doubled down on plans to implement the groundbreaking Paris Agreement that at long last committed the United States, China and other countries around the world to an action plan to fight climate change.

If Mr. Trump withdraws from it, as he has promised during his campaign, it won’t kill the agreement, but it will make the United States an outlier among the world’s leading countries. Even presidents can’t turn back the rising tide. But, acting in concert with the rest of the world, they can halt its ascent and find a long-term strategy to avoid its worst effects before it’s too late.

So come on down to our beaches, Mr. Trump — preferably during a full moon, at king tide. It might awaken you to the scary truth. You would see how beaches narrow, if not altogether vanish, when the tide comes in. How streets that used to stay safely dry are now chronically in danger of flooding. How the ocean is creeping in.

You might just discover that climate change isn’t a hoax, after all. In the process, you might go from climate change denier to climate change realist. From ignoring the peril to our planet to helping heal the planet.