Florida Governor Rick Scott has prohibited government employees from discussing climate change, global warming, and sea level rise. Too bad for Florida nature didn't bother listening. Many places along the Florida coast are facing problems due to that same sea level rise the government isn't allowed to discuss. Meanwhile, the state can only watch because Scott doesn't believe in sea level rise and has put off efforts to form a plan to deal with the problem.
Many coastal communities suffer from chronic flooding - streets are now routinely flooding during high tides. Sea water is intruding into ground water - Hallandale Beach, north of Miami, has been forced to abandon six of eight wells due to salt water intrusion. Flood control systems are being overburdened - higher sea levels translate into higher storm surges. Municipalities can't deal with the problem without state help, but the help isn't coming. In fact, Scott has downsized the state environmental agencies, making it even more difficult for the state to respond.
Insurance giant Swiss Re has estimated South Florida could suffer $33 billion in damages due to sea level rise and climate change by the year 2030. That would be a lot of lost taxes for the state, but they don't seem to care. Scott's office denies employees are being censored, despite the evidence of internal emails. At the same time, local leaders complained about the "poisonous political atmosphere."
Well, bad news is on the way. The rate of sea level rise is increasing. Researchers have combined tidal gauge data with GPS data for the land to find out sea level rise is due to two factors - the rise in the height of the oceans and the simultaneous movement of the land masses. What they found is the earlier calculations of sea level rise were too large. That means the more recent sea level rise has been even more than previously thought and is increasing at a rate of about 12% per year. They estimate this will increase sea level disasters from about $25 billion per year currently to as much as $100,000 billion ($100 trillion!) by 2100.
But, it keeps getting better.
The Larsen C ice shelf on the Antarctic peninsula is being melted by warm waters from beneath and warm air from above. Researchers have calculated the ice shelf could collapse within the century, possibly earlier. Larsen C is the largest ice shelf on the peninsula and fourth largest in the world (about twice the size of Belgium). Two smaller companions have collapsed in recent decades. Larsen A collapsed in 1995 and Larsen B collapsed in 2002. Larsen C has lost 4 meters of ice, resulting in the ice sheet being a full meter lower. (NOTE: Here is a timely NASA update, including a nice video, of the breakup of Larsen B.)
Melting of the ice would not in itself lead to higher sea levels because the ice is already in the water. Melting it would keep the sea level the same. But, the ice shelf acts as a stopper for the land ice behind it. Remove the ice shelf and that land ice would be free to move into the ocean at an accelerated rate - and that will lead to rising sea levels by adding more ice to the oceans even without melting it. The accelerated movement of the land ice was witnessed after the collapse of Larsen A and B.
The loss of land ice on Antarctica has increased from approximately 30 billion tons per year in 2001 to 147 billion tons per year a decade later. Add to that rate of increase the amount of ice being held back by Larsen C and the situation in Florida (and other coastal communities worldwide) is looking worse by the day.
But, of course, if we don't talk about it, it won't happen. Just ask Rick Scott.