Clothesline in Winter

Clothesline in Winter

Friday, February 11, 2011

Sleeping with the Fishies

I was interested last week to come across a hotel in Florida that’s totally under water.  You actually get to it by scuba diving.  It turns out to be pretty small to be called a hotel, with only two guestrooms, but where else can you sleep with the fishies?

Jules Undersea Lodge in Key Largo
Well, give it a few decades, and it looks like you’ll find more than a thousand of them, right there in Florida.  We've been looking at a study prepared for the State of Florida by Tufts University researchers.  It projects that 1,362 currently-standing hotels and inns will be engulfed by the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico by the year 2060 – assuming we continue with business as usual when it comes to carbon emissions. And this assumes only 27" in sea level rise, which is far below the worst case.

Of course, every single hotel in the Keys, on Sanibel Island, on Miami Beach and most Florida barrier islands will be awash.   For me, the catastrophe is Sanibel, my childhood summer haunt, with its mangrove swamps teeming with every kind of bird and fish.  The modestly gracious Island Inn, the Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge, and my aunt’s simple cottage tucked among the dunes – they all will be miles from the nearest land.

But it can’t be just hotels that are giving way to the waves, as sea levels respond to the effects of warmer oceans and melting ice sheets.  What else will be “undah dah sea?”

Well, for starters, 900,000 residential units, including houses, apartments and condos.  Almost one million homes will be gone. 

And churches:  1,025 of them.  More than a thousand congregations will be homeless, looking for other places to worship.

The list goes on with some pretty sobering items:  68 hospitals and 37 nursing homes; 115 solid waste disposal sites and 140 water treatment facilities; 5 Superfund sites, and 336 hazardous materials sites. All these toxins awash in the ocean.

That’s probably as bad as it gets, right?  Not really.  Our new Atlantis will also have a couple of superstar attractions: two nuclear reactors – the massive Turkey Point Generating Station that currently supplies Miami’s electric needs.  These reactors will be – by my estimate – between 6 and 8 miles from the nearest land.

Miami's largest nuclear power station could be far offshore in 2060
Congress is gearing up just now to hold hearings on climate change. They're led by politicians who are bent on chastising those nettlesome climate scientists: the ones who are trying to scare us good folks into reducing our use of fossil fuels.  Much testimony will be offered by experts telling us how we can’t afford the cost of action on CO2 emissions.  I only hope that some sober voices will be present to focus our elected leaders on the costs of inaction.

If we do nothing, I’m afraid a lot of Floridians will be sleeping with the fishies.

Thanks for reading, and may God bless you.

J. Elwood

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