Sunday, January 18, 2015

Dear Florida: Sorry we burned all of that coal but it couldn't be helped

The February issue of National Geographic features an excellent -- and scary -- article about the effects of global warming on south Florida. As the planet warms and sea levels rise, Miami is destined to be either 1. A floating city; 2. nonexistent. Some are planning for the inevitable. Many are not.

National Geographic maps show one of the worst-case scenarios for sea level rise. In 2100, a five-foot rise is expected, which would inundate most coastal areas.
If sea levels rise five feet, nearly one million of the current homes near the coast will be below the average day’s high tide.
In total, some $390 billion worth of property could be damaged or lost—a sum fives times as great as Florida’s state budget.
I grew up in one of those sea-level homes a half block from "The World's Most Famous Beach." It's possible I learned my love of hyperbole from Daytona Beach boosters. I did learn to surf and love the ocean. At one time, I was thinking of becoming a marine biologist. My brothers and I arose every morning with dreams of good surf. Often we were disappointed. But we usually spent a part of every day in salt water -- or on it. I wasn't big on fishing but some of my brothers were. We were water people.  

I now live on an ancient seabed in Wyoming. Sometimes, when the wind blows from the southeast, I smell salt water. Sometimes I also smell the refinery, but that's another story. Parts of Wyoming's ancient seabed contain seams of coal produced by flora and fauna from those ancient seas and seashores. For a hundred years or so, we've been digging up the coal to burn in power plants that add pollutants to the air and warm the climate. In this way. we contribute to the sea gobbling up my old Florida home and, one day in the far future, providing some bitchin' surfing in Cheyenne, Wyoming.

In Gov. Mead's State of the State speech this week, he received applause and enthusiastic huzzahs from legislators when he said this:
“In coming years, I will continue to work with bulldog determination on coal initiatives, port expansion, new technology, and value-added products. And in coming years, we don’t need to let up, we need to double down. We must assure coal’s continuity.”
Surf's up!

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