Including an Interview With UM’s Own Climate Change Expert
Odds are you’re a college kid reading this right now, so I don’t have to spend much time telling you that climate change is a very real thing. However, if you’re Marco Rubio or someone else who loves the phrase, “I’m not a scientist,” then you’re in luck. I was able to grab some coffee with a scientist who specializes in sea level rise, University of Miami’s own Dr. Harold Wanless. Wanless chairs the Department of Geological Sciences, and when he’s not dropping knowledge on UM kids, he serves as Chairman of the Science Committee for the Miami-Dade Climate Change Task Force. Basically, he’s a baller in the scientific community and when it comes to the increasingly imminent consequences of sea level rise in Miami, he gave it to me straight.
Sorry I have to start off like this, but are sea levels actually rising or should I not be concerned about it, as Gov. Rick Scott and others seems to be?
HW: Haha, I was given 20 minutes to talk to the governor at a hearing about it and he didn’t seem to care very much. But yes, sea level rise is a very real thing and it is beyond me why it is not taken more seriously.
OK, so we got that out of the way. It’s real and there aren’t many scientists who dispute that. However, what all these scientists haven’t exactly agreed upon is precisely how much the sea level is going to rise. There have been reports with estimates varying from a 2-foot to 10-foot rise by the year 2100. Most of the scientific community agrees on about a 3-foot to 4-foot rise. But a new report came out this summer that made waves (get it?) because not only was it was written by a top expert who used to work for NASA, but it also predicted a rise of up to 10-feet. So I asked Dr. Wanless about his thoughts on which report he believes to be the most accurate:
HW: It is hard to predict since humans have never been present to witness what it looks like. But from what I’ve seen, I think the Hansen (NASA guy) report is right-on and there very well could be at least a 10-foot rise, taking into account the melting off of Greenland and Antarctica, which many reports do not consider . . . 6 feet is a conservative estimate and we are already ahead of predictions now that we made 30 years ago so I wouldn’t be surprised to see something like 10 feet.
Woah, dude. Our climate change pro here is saying he believes the problem is much worse than what the general public believes it to be now. He solemnly went on about the deeply complex reasons for why he believes this as I depressingly tried to wrap my head around what this actually would mean for Miami. (Click here if you want the dorky deets though – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F-Hcu3jH8G4.)
Ya, ok, so let’s see…six feet of sea level rise – I’m taller than that. So what, the beach on Key Biscayne might get a little closer than before. No big deal, right? But then Dr. Wanless showed me a website with an interactive map illustrating what would actually go underwater according to levels risen. Peep it – ( http://coast.noaa.gov/slr/.) So, even if we underestimate what Dr. Wanless said and set it to what Miami would look like with, let’s say, 5-foot level rises, I begin to notice some of our favorite locales becoming subaquatic.
So here is a list of all the dope spots that will be either inaccessible or unusable sometime in the next 85 years in Miami:
1. Almost all of South Beach – no LIV, no Story, no Mokai Mondays, no Nikki Beach
2. Gonna need a new Friday-after-class spot – no more Monty’s
3. No more Heat Games – maybe Lebron knew all along
4. No more Marlins Games – actually I’m ok with that one
5. Would probably have to move Ultra from Bayfront Park
6. The back of Blackbird will be a pond so you’ll have to stay inside but eventually the whole thing will be underwater in 100-some years
7. No more Crandon Park at Key Biscayne
8. No more Everglades
9. Adiós Vizcaya Gardens
10. Bye-bye Matheson Hammock Park
11. All of Fort Lauderdale is pretty screwed
12. The airport would probably be unusable at 6 feet under . . . so maybe take a boat?
13. Turkey Key Nuclear Power Plant in Homestead . . .ya total game changer right….
14. Eventually, pretty much everything . . . sweet.
If you’re not thinking about how royally irresponsible we’ve been the last few decades as a global society, then you might just be thinking about the consequences of your social life. You’re probably saying to yourself, “Dammit, how will my grandkids know what it’s like to blackout after Friday classes on some PK3s at Monty’s and then rally for a rowdy night on the stage at Blackbird?!” Now instead of SLS pool parties they’ll be swimming in desolate remains of an abandoned archipelago with skyscrapers jutting out. Where would your grandkids be able to watch Calvin Harris live as 4 bottles of Grey Goose with sparklers coming out of them are delivered to your table by a half-naked dancer? There will be no more Matheson Hammock or Crandon Park to chill by the beach when our city turns into Atlantis. But hey, at least on the plus side the beach will be even closer than before (except at the end of Grand Avenue in the Grove, not at a beautiful state park.) Where will we watch the Heat?! The fucking Heat man, we can’t lose them!
And yes, yes I know, it’s not like the Heat will stop playing games just because of a little water. We love D-Wade-Bosh alley hoops and shit-talking every non-Miami fan too much to let all that just end. But dude, come on, it’s going to cost so much money to move stadiums, as well as any kind of solution to keep water levels down. And a substantial amount of this money is going to be coming from the city. They’re not only going to have to build new stadiums, but also new roads and new utility systems in order to keep necessities like electricity, water, and plumbing working smoothly. This will mean money being spent on parts of Miami that don’t need spending. There are areas other than obscenely wealthy places like South Beach and Brickell that could use money to build up their communities, like Overtown and Little Haiti and much more of the less glamorous side of Miami.
Dr. Wanless, whose college days are behind him, said he would miss The Everglades Park, Mangrove Coast, and Cape Sable the most. Yet, that is the least of his concerns as he alerts me to the bigger picture.
HW: One of the biggest things is the affect this will have on our water sewage system. Our freshwater reserves are going to be underwater and if you experienced Hurricane Sandy you know that if you mess up sewage systems, things become a huge mess. But also this is already affecting real estate prices; people are starting to realize their beachfront property has no long-term value so they are selling them off . . . A lot of industrial and manufacturing plants are at risk. Our marine system will be at risk, which is quite important and people forget . . . Not to mention the Turkey Point Nuclear Power Plant in Homestead, which would result in a national crisis. So yes, sea level rise is quite serious and already taking place and will continue to do so for the rest of your life.
” . . . We’re going to have to keep updating our infrastructure as the water level keeps rising. However, eventually there is going to come a point where it becomes economically unaffordable to keep doing that, and relocation is going to have to take place. Miami will be uninhabitable by the end of the century.”
If you don’t care about poor communities becoming further neglected, thousands of people being displaced from their homes, the destruction of animal habitats, or the contamination of aquifers and agricultural lands… then you should at least give a fuck about all of our favorite spots from our college years no longer being a part of Miami but a part of the Atlantic Ocean.
OK yes, but what can I do?!?
1. Get informed. Here’s a great book recommendation from Dr. Wanless:
2. Email your politicians saying you care (it’s how democracy works!)
firstname.lastname@example.org is the address for the Mayor of Miami, Tomás Regalado.
3. Plant a tree! Forestation is the best method for lowering C02 levels.
4. Attend events and rallies like the People’s Climate Change March, which took place in Downtown two weeks ago. Check this out for upcoming events: https://floridaclimateinstitute.org/events/upcoming
5. Look out for UM Eco Board Committee Events. They’re having a Green Fair on campus November 4th.
Or give up all hope. It’s up to you…
cover photo credit to go_greener_oz (https://www.flickr.com/photos/go_greener_oz/3046225225 )