There are some things more important than the price of an mcf of natural gas or a barrel of oil

Hello From the Year 2050. We Avoided the Worst of Climate Change — But Everything Is Different

By Bill McKibben   September 12, 2019 /time.com 

McKibben is the author of Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out? and a co-founder of 350.org

Let’s imagine for a moment that we’ve reached the middle of the century. It’s 2050, and we have a moment to reflect—the climate fight remains the consuming battle of our age, but its most intense phase may be in our rearview mirror. And so we can look back to see how we might have managed to dramatically change our society and economy. We had no other choice.

There was a point after 2020 when we began to collectively realize a few basic things.

One, we weren’t getting out of this unscathed. Climate change, even in its early stages, had begun to hurt: watching a California city literally called Paradise turn into hell inside of two hours made it clear that all Americans were at risk. When you breathe wildfire smoke half the summer in your Silicon Valley fortress, or struggle to find insurance for your Florida beach house, doubt creeps in even for those who imagined they were immune.

Two, there were actually some solutions. By 2020, renewable energy was the cheapest way to generate electricity around the planet—in fact, the cheapest way there ever had been. The engineers had done their job, taking sun and wind from quirky backyard DIY projects to cutting-edge technology. Batteries had plummeted down the same cost curve as renewable energy, so the fact that the sun went down at night no longer mattered quite so much—you could store its rays to use later.

And the third realization? People began to understand that the biggest reason we weren’t making full, fast use of these new technologies was the political power of the fossil-fuel industry. Investigative journalists had exposed its three-decade campaign of denial and disinformation, and attorneys general and plaintiffs’ lawyers were beginning to pick them apart. And just in time.

These trends first intersected powerfully on Election Day in 2020. The Halloween hurricane that crashed into the Gulf didn’t just take hundreds of lives and thousands of homes; it revealed a political seam that had begun to show up in polling data a year or two before. Of all the issues that made suburban Americans—women especially—­uneasy about President Trump, his stance on climate change was near the top. What had seemed a modest lead for the Democratic challenger widened during the last week of the campaign as damage reports from Louisiana and Mississippi rolled in; on election night it turned into a rout, and the analysts insisted that an under­appreciated “green vote” had played a vital part—after all, actual green parties in Canada, the U.K. and much of continental Europe were also outperforming expectations. Young voters were turning out in record numbers: the Greta Generation, as punsters were calling them, made climate change their No. 1 issue.

And when the new President took the oath of office, she didn’t disappoint. In her Inaugural Address, she pledged to immediately put America back in the Paris Agreement—but then she added, “We know by now that Paris is nowhere near enough. Even if all the countries followed all the promises made in that accord, the temperature would still rise more than 3°C (5°F or 6°F). If we let the planet warm that much, we won’t be able to have civilizations like the ones we’re used to. So we’re going to make the changes we need to make, and we’re going to make them fast.”

Fast, of course, is a word that doesn’t really apply to Capitol Hill or most of the world’s other Congresses, Parliaments and Central Committees. It took constant demonstrations from ever larger groups like Extinction Rebellion, and led by young activists especially from the communities suffering the most, to ensure that politicians feared an angry electorate more than an angry carbon lobby. But America, which historically had poured more carbon into the atmosphere than any other nation, did cease blocking progress. With the filibuster removed, the Senate passed—by the narrowest of margins—one bill after another to end subsidies for coal and gas and oil companies, began to tax the carbon they produced, and acted on the basic principles of the Green New Deal: funding the rapid deployment of solar panels and wind turbines, guaranteeing federal jobs for anyone who wanted that work, and putting an end to drilling and mining on federal lands.

Since those public lands trailed only China, the U.S., India and Russia as a source of carbon, that was a big deal. Its biggest impact was on Wall Street, where investors began to treat fossil-fuel stocks with increasing disdain. When BlackRock, the biggest money manager in the world, cleaned its basic passive index fund of coal, oil and gas stocks, the companies were essentially rendered off-limits to normal investors. As protesters began cutting up their Chase bank cards, the biggest lender to the fossil-fuel industry suddenly decided green investments made more sense. Even the staid insurance industry began refusing to underwrite new oil and gas pipelines—and shorn of its easy access to capital, the industry was also shorn of much of its political influence. Every quarter meant fewer voters who mined coal and more who installed solar panels, and that made political change even easier.

As America’s new leaders began trying to mend fences with other nations, climate action proved to be a crucial way to rebuild diplomatic trust. China and India had their own reasons for wanting swift action—mostly, the fact that smog-choked cities and ever deadlier heat waves were undermining the stability of the ruling regimes. When Beijing announced that its Belt and Road Initiative would run on renewable energy, not coal, the energy future of much of Asia changed overnight. When India started mandating electric cars and scooters for urban areas, the future of the internal-combustion engine was largely sealed. Teslas continued to attract upscale Americans, but the real numbers came from lower-priced electric cars pouring out of Asian factories. That was enough to finally convince even Detroit that a seismic shift was under way: when the first generation of Ford E-150 pickups debuted, with ads demonstrating their unmatched torque by showing them towing a million-pound locomotive, only the most unreconstructed motorheads were still insisting on the superiority of gas-powered rides.

Other easy technological gains came in our homes. After a century of keeping a tank of oil or gas in the basement for heating, people quickly discovered the appeal of air-source heat pumps, which turned the heat of the outdoors (even on those rare days when the temperature still dropped below zero) into comfortable indoor air. Gas burners gave way to induction cooktops. The last incandescent bulbs were in museums, and even most of the compact fluorescents had been long since replaced by LEDs. Electricity demand was up—but when people plugged in their electric vehicles at night, the ever growing fleet increasingly acted like a vast battery, smoothing out the curves as the wind dropped or the sun clouded. Some people stopped eating meat, and lots and lots of people ate less of it—a cultural transformation made easier by the fact that Impossible Burgers turned out to be at least as juicy as the pucks that fast-food chains had been slinging for years. The number of cows on the world’s farms started to drop, and with them the source of perhaps a fifth of emissions. More crucially, new diets reduced the pressure to cut down the remaining tropical rain forests to make way for grazing land.

In other words, the low-hanging fruit was quickly plucked, and the pluckers were well paid. Perhaps the fastest-growing business on the planet involved third-party firms that would retrofit a factory or an office with energy-efficient technology and simply take a cut of the savings on the monthly electric bill. Small businesses, and rural communities, began to notice the economic advantages of keeping the money paid for power relatively close to home instead of shipping it off to Houston or Riyadh. The world had wasted so much energy that much of the early work was easy, like losing weight by getting your hair cut.

But the early euphoria came to an end pretty quickly. By the end of the 2020s, it became clear we would have to pay the price of delaying action for decades.

For one thing, the cuts in emissions that scientists prescribed were almost impossibly deep. “If you’d started in 1990 when we first warned you, the job was manageable: you could have cut carbon a percent or two a year,” one eminent physicist explained. “But waiting 30 years turned a bunny slope into a black diamond.” As usual, the easy “solutions” turned out to be no help at all: fracked natural-gas wells were leaking vast quantities of methane into the atmosphere, and “biomass burning”—­cutting down forests to burn them for electricity—was putting a pulse of carbon into the air at precisely the wrong moment. (As it happened, the math showed letting trees stand was crucial for pulling carbon from the atmosphere—when secondary forests were allowed to grow, they sucked up a third or more of the excess carbon humanity was producing.) Environmentalists learned they needed to make some compromises, and so most of America’s aging nuclear reactors were left online past their decommissioning dates: that lower-carbon power supplemented the surging renewable industry in the early years, even as researchers continued work to see if fusion power, thorium reactors or some other advanced design could work.

The real problem, though, was that climate change itself kept accelerating, even as the world began trying to turn its energy and agriculture systems around. The giant slug of carbon that the world had put into the atmosphere—more since 1990 than in all of human history before—acted like a time-delayed fuse, and the temperature just kept rising. Worse, it appeared that scientists had systematically underestimated just how much damage each tenth of a degree would actually do, a point underscored in 2032 when a behemoth slice of the West Antarctic ice sheet slid majestically into the southern ocean, and all of a sudden the rise in sea level was being measured in feet, not inches. (Nothing, it turned out, could move Americans to embrace the metric system.) And the heating kept triggering feedback loops that in turn accelerated the heating: ever larger wildfires, for instance, kept pushing ever more carbon into the air, and their smoke blackened ice sheets that in turn melted even faster.

This hotter world produced an ongoing spate of emergencies: “forest-fire season” was now essentially year-round, and the warmer ocean kept hurricanes and typhoons boiling months past the old norms. And sometimes the damage was novel: ancient carcasses kept emerging from the melting permafrost of the north, and with them germs from illnesses long thought extinct. But the greatest crises were the slower, more inexorable ones: the ongoing drought and desertification was forcing huge numbers of Africans, Asians and Central Americans to move; in many places, the heat waves had literally become unbearable, with nighttime temperatures staying above 100°F and outdoor work all but impossible for weeks and months at a time. On low-lying ground like the Mekong Delta, the rising ocean salted fields essential to supplying the world with rice. The U.N. had long ago estimated the century could see a billion climate refugees, and it was beginning to appear it was unnervingly correct. What could the rich countries say? These were people who hadn’t caused the crisis now devouring their lives, and there weren’t enough walls and cages to keep them at bay, so the migrations kept roiling the politics of the planet.

There were, in fact, two possible ways forward. The most obvious path was a constant competition between nations and individuals to see who could thrive in this new climate regime, with luckier places turning themselves into fortresses above the flood. Indeed some people in some places tried to cling to old notions: plug in some solar panels and they could somehow return to a more naive world, where economic expansion was still the goal of every government.

But there was a second response that carried the day in most countries, as growing numbers of people came to understand that the ground beneath our feet had truly shifted. If the economy was the lens through which we’d viewed the world for a century, now survival was the only sensible basis on which to make decisions. Those decisions targeted not just carbon dioxide; these societies went after the wild inequality that also marked the age. The Green New Deal turned out to be everything the Koch brothers had most feared when it was introduced: a tool to make America a fairer, healthier, better-educated place. It was emulated around the world, just as America’s Clean Air Act had long served as a template for laws across the globe. Slowly both the Keeling Curve, measuring carbon in the atmosphere, and the Gini coefficient, measuring the distribution of wealth, began to flatten.

That’s where we are today. We clearly did not “escape” climate change or “solve” global warming—the temperature keeps climbing, though the rate of increase has lessened. It’s turned into a wretched century, which is considerably better than a catastrophic one. We ended up with the most profound and most dangerous physical changes in human history. Our civilization surely teetered—and an enormous number of people paid an unfair and overwhelming price—but it did not fall.

People have learned to defend what can be practically defended: expensive seawalls and pumps mean New York is still New York, though the Antarctic may yet have something to say on the subject. Other places we’ve learned to let go: much of the East Coast has moved in a few miles, to more defensible ground. Yes, that took trillions of dollars in real estate off the board—but the roads and the bridges would have cost trillions to defend, and even then the odds were bad.

Cities look different now—much more densely populated, as NIMBY defenses against new development gave way to an increasingly vibrant urbanism. Smart municipalities banned private cars from the center of town, opening up free public-transit systems and building civic fleets of self-driving cars that got rid of the space wasted on parking spots. But rural districts have changed too: the erratic weather put a premium on hands-on agricultural skills, which in turn provided opportunities for migrants arriving from ruined farmlands elsewhere. (Farming around solar panels has become a particular specialty.) America’s rail network is not quite as good as it was in the early 20th century, but it gets closer each year, which is good news since low-carbon air travel proved hard to get off the ground.

What’s changed most of all is the mood. The defiant notion that we would forever overcome nature has given way to pride of a different kind: increasingly we celebrate our ability to bend without breaking, to adapt as gracefully as possible to a natural world whose temper we’ve come to respect. When we look back to the start of the century we are, of course, angry that people did so little to slow the great heating: if we’d acknowledged climate change in earnest a decade or two earlier, we might have shaved a degree off the temperature, and a degree is measured in great pain and peril. But we also know it was hard for people to grasp what was happening: human history stretched back 10,000 years, and those millennia were physically stable, so it made emotional sense to assume that stability would stretch forward as well as past.

We know much better now: we know that we’ve knocked the planet off its foundations, and that our job, for the foreseeable centuries, is to absorb the bounces as she rolls. We’re dancing as nimbly as we can, and so far we haven’t crashed.

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RONNY -- 

  At present, I'm south of Houston, and tropical Storm Imelda is dropping up to 16 inches of rain in two hours near Beaumont. And we've received rainfall at a rate of 2 inches per hour. The occurrence of high rain fall events for the Houston gulf coast area has doubled since the 1990s. 

   Something has changed. Global warming is a good suspect.

  

Im with you, global warming is real.  I was in Wisconsin a couple weeks ago and saw where there used to be glaciers but they are no longer there.  We've got to do something!

I agree olddog.  The time to debate if the climate crisis is real is over.  The debate now is what to do to address it.  The sooner that debate results in action, the less drastic actions that must be taken.  Since some very disruptive climate changes seem already unavoidable, our approach should be more aggressive than it would have been four or five years ago.  I am thinking of, and posted on the subject of, the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan.  The plan accelerated the closure of coal fired generating plants, incentivized the switch to natural gas and was largely neutral on crude.  That approach no longer provides the reduction in green house gases that we need.  I would very much like the O&G industry to make major changes in how they address methane emissions on a national level.  In Louisiana I would like to see all the Haynesville operators do the same while the O&G industry becomes a partner in plugging orphan wells and closing canals no longer in use on the coast and in The Basin.  The public will pay for a lot of projects to protect and stabilize where possible the coast which is also a boon to protecting O&G infrastructure.  I think Louisiana could be a model for how to make good faith efforts along these lines without abolishing the O&G industry.  The O&G industry must be willing to join in those efforts as opposed to stone walling anything that resembles an effort to make them pay for environment damage for which they are obviously at fault.


'Climate Change': A Leftist Excuse to Redistribute Wealth and Destroy the West

The "Church of Climate Change" demands that Western nations impose restrictions on industrial CO2 emissions, encouraging them to squander billions on unreliable "green" technologies and renewable sources of energy.  They continue to ignore the one policy that has significantly increased atmospheric CO2 levels in the last few decades, generating hundreds of millions of metric tons of the stuff annually: mass third-world immigration (see Kolankiewicz and Camarota, 2008).

If the IPCC were objective, it would demand an end to mass immigration instead of more carbon taxes and emissions trading.  Such indifference in the face of the evidence shows that they care more about racially dispossessing whites than they do about "saving the planet."

So what is the ulterior motive?  To further understand what this may be, we must examine the career of Canadian businessman Maurice Strong (1929–2015).  Thanks to his tireless "lobbying behind the scenes," the U.N. has played a key role in forging a "consensus" on man-made global warming.  In a sense, he was the right man at the right time.  Besides his ability to manipulate others, Strong was aided by other factors, such as the collapse of Soviet communism in the early 1990s.  This helped pave the way for the emergence of a new leftist orthodoxy: environmentalism.

Strong was an ardent believer in the efficacy of state redistributive policies.  In 1976, Strong told Maclean's magazine: "I am a socialist in ideology, a capitalist in methodology."  Like his socialism, his environmentalism was also pragmatic rather than ideological.  Its purpose was to advance his vision of global governance under the aegis of the U.N.  In a 1992 essay, he wrote: "It is simply not feasible for sovereignty to be exercised unilaterally by individual nation-states, however powerful.  It is a principle which will yield only slowly and reluctantly to the imperatives of global environmental cooperation."

Strong was the most active and influential member of the Brundtland Commission, established by the U.N. General Assembly in 1983.  The Commission's report, Our Common Future, was published in 1987.  Strong helped formulate the report's concept of "sustainable development."  This was a call for social and economic egalitarianism within a simple Marxist dialectical framework.  The antagonism between capitalist and proletarian worker mirrored the antagonism between industrialized and developing nations.  The First World was identified as the primary culprit behind third-world underdevelopment.  Its need for raw materials forced developing countries to over-exploit and deplete their natural resources, leading to more environmental degradation and underdevelopment.  The solution is more money to the developing world from rich Western nations.

Strong's participation in the Brundtland Commission ensured that man-made global warming and socialist redistribution would be incorporated into the report.  These would subsequently form the basis of U.N. environmental policy.  This would become so influential that Western governments would try reversing the effects of the Industrial Revolution in their own countries through restrictions on CO2 emissions and increasing dependence on unreliable biofuels and green technologies.

In 1988, Strong had convinced the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) to agree to the formation of an "intergovernmental mechanism" to monitor anthropogenic global warming and suggest policy recommendations for the U.N. and Western governments.  This organization was the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change).

Through the IPCC and other U.N. bodies, enormous sums of money were transferred from the West to third-world countries.  In 2010, the Green Climate Fund (GCF) was established; its purpose was to further the U.N. goal of socialist redistribution in the name of sustainable development.  President Barack Obama pledged $3 billion to the fund in 2014, with the fund receiving a total of a $1 billion by 2017.

However, not all Western politicians subscribed to the false humanitarianism of the U.N.'s avowedly socialist redistributive aims.  President Donald Trump promised during his election campaign to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord.  In his withdrawal speech on June 1, 2017, he criticized the GCF as a "scheme to redistribute wealth out of the United States ... to developing countries."

Strong once posed the rhetorical question: "Isn't the only hope for the planet that the industrialized civilizations collapse?  Isn't it our responsibility to bring this about?"  His advocacy of socialist redistribution reflected an open hostility to Western industrial society, which had (in his view) impoverished and underdeveloped third-world societies.  "If we don't change," he said, "our species will not survive[.] ... Frankly, we may get to the point where the only way of saving the world will be for industrial civilization to collapse."

Why else have so many globalists backed the outsourcing of the West's manufacturing base to the developing world?  In the Brundtland Report, Western governments were advised to pursue less energy- and capital-intensive productive activities to promote sustainable development.  The result, of course, would be the managed de-industrialization of the Western nations, with the aim of placing them on an equal footing with the developing world.  If social inequality and environmental degradation were the result of industrialization, then de-industrialization would return the West to the way it was before the Industrial Revolution.  This was the clandestine purpose of Maurice Strong and the  IPCC.

Strong's wish to dismantle industrial civilization was profoundly anti-Western.  As of 2019, China is responsible for over a quarter of all global CO2 emissions, making it the world's biggest polluter, yet the burden of reducing CO2 is shouldered entirely by the West.  This burden includes payment of carbon taxes, implementation of cap and trade policies, and development of green technologies and renewable sources of energy, all entirely white, Western endeavors.

Not only is the environmental movement anti-capitalist, but as Václav Klaus (2008) explains, it is profoundly misanthropic and life-denying:

If we take the reasoning of the environmentalists seriously, we find that theirs is an anti-human ideology.  It sees the fundamental cause of the world's problems in the very expansion of homo sapiens.  Humans have surpassed the original scope of nature through the development of their intellect and their ability to reshape nature and make use of it.  Not coincidentally, many environmentalists refuse to place human beings at the center of their attention and thinking.

Research and development is necessarily energy- and capital-intensive; if fossil fuel consumption is drastically reduced by limiting CO2 emissions and encouraging dependence on unreliable biofuels and green technologies, how will man ever progress, scientifically and technologically, as a species? Environmental ideology demands the end of progress in the name of ecological sustainability.  If practiced on a large scale, it will lead to the abolition of Western civilization.  Environmentalists regard humans as subordinate to nature, investing the natural world with greater moral worth.  If taken to its logical conclusion, mass extinction of the human species would be the best possible outcome for the planet. 

At its core, environmentalism is a nihilist belief system that rejects humanity in favor of nature.  It is dangerous because it threatens the character of Western civilization, suppressing all deviation from leftist orthodoxy.  By limiting the sphere of discourse through political correctness, environmentalists create an atmosphere of intimidation where they can indulge their hatred of Western civilization under the guise of "saving the planet."

What environmentalists fail to understand is that man belongs to nature.  His impact on the environment is not at all different from the impact of other endogenous processes.  In nature, these are overcome through adaptation and divergence, not optimal or steady-state equilibrium.  This is why environmentalist aims are naïvely utopian.  If vast geological timescales reveal wide divergence in global temperatures, sea levels, atmospheric CO2, etc., then believing that one can turn the "climate knob" back to some ideal temperature through "sustainable development" is laughable.       

Man-made global warming is a non-issue.  Not only has it never been scientifically proven, but its purpose is to manipulate the masses, using alarmist rhetoric, into abandoning Western industrial society by fanning mass hysteria to a fever pitch.  Once this was done, getting the electorate on board with curtailing Western scientific and technological development would be a cakewalk.  As an ideology, environmentalism is just black-and-white moralizing within a simple Marxist dialectical framework.

The truth is that leftists have no interest in the environment; if they did, they would be neo-Malthusian advocates of zero population growth in places like Africa and the Middle East.

From the American Thinker.

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Global warming is a concern of mine but what concerns me most is what if the measures we take to combat global warming lead to global cooling and that leads to an influx of people fleeing the north for warmer climate?

The Washington Examiner

AOC chief of staff confirms: Green New Deal was not really about the climate




The chief of staff for Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez stated that her signature Green New Deal was not really about saving the planet after all.

In a report by the Washington Post, Saikat Chakrabarti revealed that "it wasn’t originally a climate thing at all ... we really think of it as a how-do-you-change-the-entire-economy thing."

The revelation came during a conversation with Sam Ricketts, climate director for presidential candidate Jay Inslee. Chakrabarti further told Ricketts of the Green New Deal, "I think ... it’s dual. It is both rising to the challenge that is existential around climate and it is building an economy that contains more prosperity. More sustainability in that prosperity — and more broadly shared prosperity, equitability and justice throughout."

Chakrabarti further said of Ricketts' climate plans with Inslee, who has campaigned almost exclusively on environmental issues, "I’ll be honest, my view is I still think you guys aren’t going big enough."

AOC had previously tweeted that "@JayInslee’s climate plan is the most serious + comprehensive one to address our crisis in the 2020 field."The Green New Deal itself was fraught with complications in its February roll-out, which included confusing language and contradictions in the "Frequently Asked Question" section. Now-withdrawn statements that were widely shared with media and posted online claimed the Green New Deal would provide "economic security for all who are unable or unwilling to work" and called for “a full transition off fossil fuels and zero greenhouse gases."

The FAQ also claimed, "We set a goal to get to net-zero, rather than zero emissions, in 10 years because we aren’t sure that we’ll be able to fully get rid of farting cows and airplanes that fast."

Democratic Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts, who is a lead co-sponsor of the Green New Deal, said of the roll-out fumble, "I’m familiar with the fact sheet. But again, it’s separate from the resolution, all right? The resolution is really what the document is that I was speaking to today … That’s the key document. That’s what you should focus on. Focus on the resolution." AOC later blamed the FAQ on an unnamed aide, saying "I definitely had a staffer that had a really bad day at work."

The Green New Deal, which some estimated could cost upwards of $93 trillion to enact, also promised "economic prosperity for all." The resolution was soundly defeated in the Senate in March.

In a video from 2018, Chakrabarti promoted his recently elected boss' agenda in Congress while wearing a T-shirt that featured the face of Subhas Chandra Bose, who collaborated with both Hitler and Imperial Japan during World War II.

At this point the possibility of global cooling isn't on the radar in the scientific community because they know we can not escape warming above 2 degrees no matter what we do now.  We will have effects of climate change that will be catastrophic for some regions and some populations no matter what we do.  Yes, migration will be a challenge to be dealt with come mid-century as will food insecurity on a regional basis.  Some coastal cities may be able to wall themselves off from a rising ocean if we take substantive measures but others will simply cease to be inhabitable.  The effects will be broad based and vary in intensity from diseases such as those tick and mosquito borne to the need to change crops to account for more or less precipitation to extinction of some plant and animal species.  Some regions will benefit and some will be devastated.  We will be dealing with the fall out for unforeseeable generations into the future.

New projections show sea level rise accelerating in Tampa Bay

Additional 2 to 8.5 feet by 2100 

Posted: 11:07 AM, Sep 18, 2019  By: Paul LaGrone  abcactionnews.com

Prelude to a Change

Sea Level Rise, climate change, global warming: These are the phrases, the words, the talking points you see and hear in the headlines and the news.

They have become politicized terms that either grab your attention, or turn you off, or they just linger in the background like music at a party you’ve been to before.

But a subtle, yet profound change is starting to unfold. The argument over climate change is moving away from whether it’s actually happening and pivoting toward a more complicated negotiation of what should and can reasonably be done about it.

That is the new fault line in this debate: ideal vs. practical. And however that contest of perception plays out, the results will set into motion profound consequences that will impact your daily life, from your cost of living  to your family's health.

Evidence of a Problem

Michael, Irma, Mathew.

Three major hurricanes in three years hit Florida, killing nearly 130 people and costing the state hundreds of billions of dollars.

But it's not just episodic disasters like hurricanes that are threatening the way of life in Tampa Bay. It's also the creeping, unpredictable, and long term effects of sea level rise.

Kim Caswell lives on St. Pete Beach. She says when the King Tide rolls in several times a year, the streets turn into canals.

“It was not flooding nearly to the extent and with the frequency that it does now,” she says.

In May, local climate scientists presented their new projections for sea level rise in Tampa Bay.

They found the Tampa Bay region can expect to see an additional 2 to 8.5 feet of sea level rise by the end of the century. That's at least a foot higher than their estimate just four years ago in 2015.

The report says the higher water levels will cause chronic flooding, shoreline erosion, threats to drinking water and loss of ecosystems.

“Tampa Bay acts like a funnel, so when you have sea level rise and storm surge on top of it, that puts people in jeopardy,” says Susan Glickman, who works with the Tampa Bay Regional Resiliency Coalition.

The group brings together local leaders to plan for climate change, everything from hardening infrastructure and investing in flood control, to how to evacuate in a time of more frequent, stronger hurricanes.

“We are seeing sea level rise, we are seeing more intense hurricanes, and we are seeing droughts and wildfires, so the debate over whether or not it's happening has really gone to the sidelines,” says Glickman.

Dr. Robert Weisberg is an Oceanographer with the University of South Florida.

“I don't buy into these dire predictions that we are all going to be drowning more sooner than later,” he says.

He says people tend to focus too much on the worst case scenario, often overlooking the lower range of projected sea level rise. “The climate is always changing, it always has changed, it always will change,” he says. “I am of the opinion that unless there are catastrophic changes we will continue to see a slow rise in sea level.”

Dr. Weisberg says the more immediate threat to Tampa Bay is increased, unchecked development along the shoreline, where the storm surge is only getting stronger.

“As human beings, we have to be smart about what we are doing and i don't think we are,” says Dr. Weisberg.

Professor Weisberg's point is easily summed up in a basic question: Why do we continue to build right near the water on the coastline?

“Private property rights,” says Jennifer Doerfel. She is the Executive Vice President of the Tampa Bay Builders Association.

“People want to do what they feel is desirable in their property,” says Doerfel.

Should developers have a responsibility when it comes to mitigating climate change?

“Yes and no,” she says. “Flooding is no different than any act of nature, you're not going to stop building in the Midwest because of tornadoes,” says Doerfel.

But climate experts say it's not be where you build, but how.

They point to the Netherlands as the model for how to “engineer your way” around sea level rise.

One third of the country lies below sea level, yet it almost never floods, because the Dutch have invested billions in flood control. This could be Florida's future. Or it could be Houston after Hurricane Harvey.

Researchers found the city's sprawling urban landscape directly contributed to the deadly flooding.

“They (were) filling swamp and putting houses there. If we are going to do that, then let’s not blame it on climate change,” says Dr. Weisberg.

If the science doesn't convince you Tampa Bay is sitting on a problem, perhaps the economics will.

The same climate report given to Tampa Bay leaders, says the Bay Area, with its 700 miles of shoreline and 3 million residents, stands to lose $15 billions in real estate value and 17,000 jobs, as a direct result of sea level rise.

And recent headlines reflect the growing economic concern for all of Florida. Prominent climate analyst Spencer Glendon made news when he said it's "insane to own" property in Florida, predicting that rising insurance premiums could lead to an economic crash in the Sunshine State.

Oldsmar homeowners Joseph Rocks is already feeling it.

“When I hear more insurance rates going up it makes me wonder, what are we going to do?,” asks Rocks.

He's one of thousands of Tampa Bay residents who were added to FEMA's newly proposed flood maps

“That makes me worried because if it keeps going up here we will have to sell,” says Rocks.

So where do Florida lawmakers stand on this?

In what amounts to a first for the sunshine state, Governor Ron Desantis is now seeking resumes for a newly funded job position to help Florida prepare for climate change.

 

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