Elizabeth Kolbert on Climate Change and Florida

Fine essay by Elizabeth Kolbert — whose 2014 book The Sixth Extinction I greatly admired — in the current New Yorker, The Siege of Miami, about how rising sea levels are already affecting that city. This dovetails with my previous post, in the sense that conservatives/Republicans are in denial about climate change — partly because of business interests (the oil companies contribute greatly to Republican candidates), and partly because of, as Chris Mooney explored, conservatives are in denial about anything that suggests they might need to change their take on reality, and their denial about any kind of action that might require government action.

As in that book, this essay is an effective mix of personal anecdotes, as Kolbert interviewed various people in that city, and general discussion the larger context of where humanity along the history of the planet, with occasionally startling revelations.

The amount of water on the planet is fixed (and has been for billions of years). Its distribution, however, is subject to all sorts of rearrangements. In the coldest part of the last ice age, about twenty thousand years ago, so much water was tied up in ice sheets that sea levels were almost four hundred feet lower than they are today. At that point, Miami Beach, instead of being an island, was fifteen miles from the Atlantic Coast. Sarasota was a hundred miles inland from the Gulf of Mexico, and the outline of the Sunshine State looked less like a skinny finger than like a plump heel.

Cautionary folks like to point out that the climate has always been changing. Yes, over many millennia; but not as fast as is happening now. Kolbert discusses Republican denial.

Rubio was asked to explain a statement he had made about climate change. He offered the following: “What I said is, humans are not responsible for climate change in the way some of these people out there are trying to make us believe, for the following reason: I believe that climate is changing because there’s never been a moment where the climate is not changing.”

And about how Florida governor Rick Scott instructed state workers not to mention the term ‘climate change’.

Scientists who study climate change (and the reporters who cover them) often speculate about when the partisan debate on the issue will end. If Florida is a guide, the answer seems to be never.

Some things are changing, others aren’t, yet.

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