A Leap Year Look at Climate Change
[ a significant percentage of this column was first published in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune]
As a futurist, the most important thing to me is to be as right as I can be in my forecasts. Otherwise I have no value to you my readers, or to anyone in my audiences around the world, or readers of my books. When I have been wrong, it is usually about timing.
I have learned that the hardest thing people have to overcome when listening to me is their perception of reality. Reality is always in a constant state of change, as that is the state of the universe. All one has to do is to look at history to realize that the “perceived reality” of the day, is just that, a perception.
I live in Sarasota FL and therefore I am always thinking about the future of the Gulf Coast.
That is one of the reasons I co-founded The Sarasota Institute -a 21st Century Think Tank, to bring the future here for Sarasota and Bradenton.
All of the issues about we are concerned : growing traffic congestion, over-development, affordable housing, infrastructure, beaches and land use matter. However, all of them, through time will become subject to climate change, in our beautiful area, primarily by sea level rise.
That is why the Sarasota Institute is presenting “A Leap Year Look at Climate Change” this Saturday 2/29 at the beautiful Neel Auditorium on the State College of Florida campus. The reason for the title is a simple one: the only true thing we now know is that climate change is occurring faster than we expected and, since the last leap year we have – with horror- realized that multiple negative measurements are actually accelerating.
This climate change conference is not an “it’s real” one. It is an updated check on the accelerating dynamics in the morning and in the afternoon some of the big and bold solutions needed. At this stage only big and bold will work.
In the morning Tim Rumage, the Head of Environmental Studies at Ringling College, the Chief Science Officer of ThisSpaceshipEarth.org and most knowledgeable person about all things environmental in our area will present a fresh update from the view of what we now know in this leap year.
We will follow that with a local panel to discuss what is going on in Sarasota and Manatee Counties. Then, importantly for our area we have the foremost authority on sea level rise for the state of Florida, Professor Harold Wanless, from the University of Miami to present the global, state and Gulf Coast update on what is now possible about sea level rise. His presentation will be followed by a panel discussion on what this means for all of us who live here.
In numerous rankings of all 50 states, Florida is unfortunately first at being of highest risk due to the climate crisis. It is not our fault of course but simply due to having a long coastline, low topography and in many parts of the state, Miami being the most threatened – a porous limestone upon which we live.
In the research for our recently published book “Moving to a Finite Earth Economy – Crew Manual” Bob Leonard and I found that of the top 30 cities in the United States with the highest risk for property damage due to climate change Florida has 12 and Sarasota is #27 – in the United States. Here is the list of the top 20 cities most at risk for sea level rise. Florida cities are in bold.
Rank City Value at Risk Share in Risk Zone
#1 New York $87.3 billion 7%
#2 Miami Beach $37.6 billion 85.2%
#3 Boston $35 22%
#4 Honolulu $23.1 32.2%
#5 Ft. Lauderdale $23.1 32.2%
#6 Miami $19 35%
#7 Newport Beach $16.2 18%
#8 San Mateo CA $14.6 41.6%
#9 Hilton Head. S.C $11.3 64.7%
#10 Huntington Beach $11.2 18.5%
#11 Charleston S.C. $10.6 38.6%
#12 St. Petersberg $10.3 30.4%
#13 Miramar $10.2 81.5%
#14 Virginia Beach $9.5 17.3%
#15 Jersey City, NJ $9.5 20.2%
#16 Hollywood $9.3 45.1%
#17 Cambridge MA $9.1 33.4%
#18 Redwood, CA $9.0 30.5%
#19 Hialeah $7.9 64.5%
#20 Tampa $7.8 7.8%
#21 Pembroke Pines $7.6 55.1%
#26 Davie $6.0 64%
#27 Sarasota $5.8 18.6%
#28 Pompano Beach $5.6 34%
I guess this makes me the messenger of “bad” news to many who read this. Sorry. This is not “bad” news but a growing consensus of scientific studies. What this means to me is that it is imperative to better understand this threat because only in the understanding of it, can we best prepare. Any other position is an embracing of ignorance.
People in the real estate business may not like this as it threatens their business, but the above numbers clearly present a greater risk. Pick your risk: double down on the status quo or recalibrate what your development plans are.
Back to the top of the column.
The hardest thing to forecast about sea level rise is the timing. This is not a matter of if, but when. Unfortunately, with the acceleration of global warming, the forecasts for such probable damage keeps moving closer. I forecast that a good portion of the above projected damages will occur by 2035, nationally. Certainly by the 2040 – think about this grandparents- there will be no beaches in Florida and East Coast cities will be in severe damage control. The above cities with the highest percentages of ‘share in the risk zone’ will be first to face this problem.
The entire “A Leap Year Look at Climate Change” will be live streamed globally this Saturday 2/29 from 9a-3:30p. You can view it here. Please dial in even if just for part of it as important to show that there is global concern on this unfolding catastrophe. Our first symposium on the future of education generated hundreds of streams from 15 countries. We want to blow past that number.
IF you cannot dial in live, then this same url: https://sarasotainstitute.global/stream/ can be used to view the edited synopsis of the day from 3/2-6
I will wave to all of you from the stage!