Companies Are Rushing To Make Money On Land They Know Will Be Unusable In A Few Years

florida

(Photo courtesy of teachingboxes.org.)

Beautiful beach-front property only four feet under water for sale in southern Florida! Slight problem with recurring floods, a total absence of fresh water and an iffy infrastructure, but look at the stunning view! Go swimming right in the living room! Mega-hurricanes only strike ferociously for half of the year. Get this beauty before someone else snaps it up!

An aggressive building boom has hit southern Florida hard. Builders are putting up structures on beaches and barrier islands, downtown and in the western areas on the border of the Everglades at a breathtaking rate. But that real estate is risky business. Even now banks stick some residents of southern Florida with a 30-year mortgage on properties that will become unlivable before their loans are repaid . With water ready to pour into their lives, four counties have come together to plan for a changing future. The Four-County Compact On Climate Change’s purpose is

…responding to the impacts of climate change. The Compact outlines an ongoing collaborative effort among the Compact Counties to foster sustainability and climate resilience at a regional scale.

The organization has generated about 1200 action items to safeguard communities’ stability. Clearly these counties should have a future plan to establish a set tipping point for the time when maintaining the infrastructure, insurance and safety becomes economically unfeasible.

People cannot look to New Orleans as a climate-change leader with its levees and dikes. Each situation is different. New Orleans’ average elevation is one to two feet below sea level with 16 feet the highest point and 10 feet below sea level the lowest elevation.

But the homes in southern Florida are built upon porous, permeable limestone and sand, and thus are less stable. Each day people ignore the climate change makes the inevitable changes just that much more difficult and expensive. For locations where people deny the rising sea and refuse to start planning, their society will eventually collapse into chaos.

The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) sea level rise assessment came out in 2012. It anticipates for Florida:

…a raise of 4.1 to 6.6 ft (1.25 to 2 m) by 2100, reaching 2 ft (0.6 m) by around 2050 and 3 ft (0.9 m) by around 2075.   

The result will be that the seas will overtake most of the barrier islands in the world, the greater portion of the world’s deltas and low-lying coastal zones like southeast Florida and make them uninhabitable. The hundreds of millions now living in these locations would be displaced.

Although most projections anticipate a gradual sea level rise, that may be a mistake. When the last ice age was in full force 18,000 years ago, the sea level was 420 feet lower than it is now. The reason was all the water sucked out of the sea transformed into ice sheets. When that ice began to melt, the seas rose between three and 30 feet quickly enough to drown reefs and sandy barriers islands beneath the ocean.

Then there is the modest ocean water temperature increase. Although the water is warming only two to four degrees Celsius, ice melts more rapidly. Then the warmed water works its way down through the ice cracks, lubricates the base of the ice and increases the fracturing. These ice events work as a reinforcement loop of ice melt.

Warmer ocean water has penetrated the bottom of the Jacobshaven (Illulissat) Icefjord in Greenland, so it moves faster than the ice flow above it.  That causes the ice to increase fracturing. That means ice that used to move several miles per year accelerates to 19 M.P.Y. It annually calves over…

…10% of all Greenland calf ice and more than any other glacier outside Antarctica. Studied for over 250 years, it has helped to develop our understanding of climate change and icecap glaciology. The combination of a huge ice-sheet and the dramatic sounds of a fast-moving glacial ice-stream calving into a fjord covered by icebergs makes for a dramatic and awe-inspiring natural phenomenon.

And no matter what humans do to stop atmospheric greenhouse gasses, including eliminating fossil fuel use, the process that is now in motion cannot be halted for at least 30 years. That looks like a sea level rising one foot every 10 years. So buying the new beachfront properties sounds like a very bad idea.

By 2050 most of southern Florida’s barrier islands will be abandoned, its people left to fend for themselves.