Just in case

ConnerHouseSmall.jpgA few years ago Cheryl and I talked about moving to Vermont. It wasn’t serious talk, just two people inspired by pictures of my mother’s family home in a small town just south of the Canadian border. (Actually, my mother was born in Massachusetts, but both of her parents were from Vermont.) I’ve only been there once, when my grandmother died, but the place has a hold on me… like a good mystery novel. It was home to half of my family (at one point in time), but I know almost nothing about them – the place or the people.

A few other things were on our minds when we looked at those pictures. We were wondering if it was the right time to get out of Florida, while the getting was good. Specifically, we wondered when the effects of global warming would start influencing property values – and more importantly – our safety. In 2004 we had one of the busiest hurricane seasons on record. Four storms passed through our area – a stripe of land across Florida known as “The I-4 Corridor.” A year later my sister and brother-in-law were rudely evicted from their home in New Orleans by Katrina. Climate scientists were saying this was just the beginning, and we didn’t think enough of you had the desire to do anything about it.

Part of the case for staying is we live on a high point in the county (on the leeward side of a higher point). Plus, all of our immediate family is here. The bad news is it’s only 11 meters above sea level, and it would make an awfully small island. Although, if you threw in a little sand around the edges we’d be beach front baby!

Well, we didn’t move. But we haven’t stopped worrying. We’re encouraged by our governor and our president, who seem to get our concerns. We do some of the little things all of us can do at home, trying to do our part. But we’re still concerned by a few stories in the news, and the short-sighted nature of too many people.

A couple of weeks ago I read a story about the west Antarctic ice sheet (WAIS). Here’s a quick summary: if it breaks up it may cause even more flooding than we thought. Now add that to reports about the Pine Island Glacier last year (on the West Antarctic Peninsula), suggesting it’s more unstable and closer to breaking up than we thought. NASA’s Robert Bindschadler:

Some say that we won’t see these ice shelves disappear in our lifetime — I’m not so sure. I think we might well.

Some see this as a problem for future generations, which is bad enough. Scientists see the environment changing faster than the worst case scenarios of previous climate models, and they’re alarmed. Look at the image (below). It might alarm you too. It shows the areas that would be flooded if the WAIS broke up. (Click the image to zoom in on Florida)


Ripped from the pages of Climate Progress

Some of you may think it’s too expensive to act now, with the economy where it is. The problem with this argument is there are an awful lot of climate scientists and economists who think the price of acting now is cheap compared to later. Damn cheap. It’s worth noting their idea of “later” is probably sooner than yours. Some folks are ahead of the curve on this one… in the private sector, of all places. Try getting a private insurer to write a new property insurance policy in Florida.

Think about building a dike/levee system for the gulf coast and eastern seaboard… or abandoning all of south Florida (including Miami), Naples, Ft Myers, and Tampa; as well as places like Washington and New York. They’d be under water. Then there’s the kicker: the image above doesn’t include the effects of Greenland melting (which I think may be a much slower slower process, but still a real risk if we don’t shape up).

Does that get your attention? Because it’s just the tip of the iceburg (sorry, I couldn’t resist).

If it’s hard for you to appreciate the rest of the world’s problems, think about what would happen if we turned everything west and south of Colorado into a desert. Maybe you think this is just doomsday speak from the wacko-eco-fringe? There’s some evidence it’s already starting. Ask someone from Colorado, Nevada, or California how their water supply is doing. I read this article a year or so ago, but if I recall, it was pretty sobering.

I look at that image above and I wonder why every Floridian isn’t an amateur environmentalist. One way or another, we all might be bailing.

Prove me wrong. Think about all of this when congress considers environmental legislation later this year. Tell your representatives what you think about it. Tell them you want them to do something about it.

I may not have convinced you, but after reading a draft of this post Cheryl asked me what the job market was like in Vermont.