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09/26/2013

Beyond the Arctic, Climate Change in Florida

As the climate changes, the Arctic is melting twice as fast as the rest of the world. But that doesn't mean that the rest of the country is escaping the effects of climate disruption. In fact, climate disruption can be felt far beyond the Arctic. To highlight the impacts of climate change both in the melting Arctic and across the country, this week exiled (costumed) polar bears will be visiting other communities that are also feeling the heat. You can follow the tour online here. Read on for a glimpse at what climate disruption means for people in Florida. 

Miami polar bear bus stop

Even waiting for a bus in Miami Beach, a polar bear still has to deal with the same forces that are melting his home in the Arctic.

The water on this flooded street is saltwater, and this is the leading edge of sea level rise. It’s not fresh water from a rain; it’s salt water from Biscayne Bay. Thanks to climate change, the drainage system designed to bring stormwater from the street to the sea is now bringing seawater into the street.

Salt water flooding has been worsening each year in South Florida.  Salt water flooding during high tides and superstorms are merely a bellwether of a looming disaster for South Florida and the Everglades.  The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicts several feet of sea level rise in coming decades meaning that much of  South Florida’s urbanized area will be flooded, and the impact won’t  just be in the city. According to NOAA, if nothing is done, by the time today's child sees middle age, at least one-fourth to one-half of Everglades National Park’s land mass will have vanished. Florida may be a long way from this polar bear’s home, but climate change is proving to be no day at the beach.

-- Jonathan Ullman, Sierra Club, Florida

 


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