Friday, June 30, 2006

Florida Swamped: Warming Maw

This picture represents what Florida would look like if ocean levels were to rise eighteen to twenty feet, what with global warming cooking up the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets. That’s Lake Okeechobee there in the current Florida, the big eye to the south-central part of the state, opening up into the Atlantic with the sea rise to create a new version of Italy’s boot, without much of a Sicily for consolation. I live further up the east coast on a chunk of beachside exurb between Daytona Beach and Jacksonville. That whole slice of luxury, diminished though it already is by the crowding of pac-man developments, would also disappear. Not a bad fate for this town of mine, one of those non-descript coalition of subdivisions with neither center nor soul. But it’s home.

The eighteen-to-twenty-feet rise is actually a conservative estimate, given the latest global warming calculations. “The business-as-usual scenario yields an increase of about five degrees Fahrenheit of global warming during this century, while the alternative scenario yields an increase of less than two degrees Fahrenheit during the same period,” writes Jim Hansen in the latest issue of the New York Review of Books, where this watery Floridian postcard appears. (Hansen is the Director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and the space agency’s lead climatologist who won some notoriety in January when he told the New York Times that the Bush administration “tried to stop him from speaking out since he gave a lecture [in December 2005] calling for prompt reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases linked to global warming.” The New York Review article, which you can link to below, includes this delicious header: “His opinions are expressed here, he writes, ‘as personal views under the protection of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.’”) Read the rest...