So the Obama administration has released a climate forecast, according to which Miami could be under water by the end of the century. Apparently we’re supposed to be very concerned about that.
To put this in perspective, we’ve currently got about 140,000,000 square miles of ocean on this planet — about 71.066% of the earth’s surface. Add Miami’s 35 square miles and that goes up to 71.066007%. You could add all of South Florida and barely notice the difference.
Here’s what Jeff Goodell of Rolling Stone says about that:
Of course, South Florida is not the only place that will be devastated by sea-level rise. London, Boston, New York and Shanghai are all vulnerable, as are low-lying underdeveloped nations like Bangladesh. But South Florida is uniquely screwed, in part because about 75 percent of the 5.5 million people in South Florida live along the coast.
What Mr. Goodell appears to overlook is that of the 5.5 million people now living in South Florida, approximately zero will be alive a hundred years from now, and those that are will presumably have had the sense to move inland well before the water reaches their breastbones.
And what about all the buildings and the other infrastructure? That will also mostly all be gone in a hundred years, with or without the rising sea. How many buildings these days are built to last a century? We already know that Miami’s beachfront hotels are going to deteriorate and then be rebuilt over the course of the century. The only question is where.
This leaves alarmists like Mr. Goodell sitting squarely between the horns of a dilemma: Rising oceans either are or are not a virtual certainty. If rising oceans are not a virtual certainty, then it is time to stop claiming that they are. If rising oceans are a virtual certainty, then it is also a virtual certainty that nobody is going to stick around to be submerged by them. Either way, the situation is less alarming than the alarmists want you to believe.
I am sure there is an intelligent and thoughtful discussion to be had about the costs and benefits of potential climate change. A discussion that starts from the premise that all change must be disastrous — in other words, the discussion that the president (and apparently Mr. Goodell) wants to have — is not that discussion. If your mission is to make people serious about these issues, a good first step is to stop being so damned unserious.