If you think concerns about climate change are overblown, or if you have it in your head that global warming is still an abstract concept, go down to Florida. “In the past century, the sea has risen 9 inches in Key West. In the past 23 years, it’s risen 3 inches. By 2060, it’s predicted to rise another 2 feet, with no sign of slowing down,” reports an editorial that ran in South Florida’s major newspapers Friday. It’s the kind of climate warning that terrifies the reader just by listing facts:
It’s not just a matter of how much land we’re going to lose, though the barrier islands and low-lying communities will be largely uninhabitable once the ocean rises by 3 feet. It’s a matter of what can be saved. And elsewhere, how we’re going to manage the retreat.
The editorial is part of a package called the Invading Sea that is a collaboration between the Miami Herald, the Palm Beach Post, and the Sun-Sentinel, with reporting help from public radio station WLRN. All of those outlets—and many more—have been banging on the climate change drum for years, but the collaboration represents a new level of urgency.
The problem isn’t just that the sea is rising, which could result in falling home prices, health problems for residents, and eventually daily flooded streets in Miami. The problem is that while some coastal counties and businesses are taking sea rise seriously, Republican ideologues at the top of the state and federal governments are ignoring it. Florida governor Rick Scott made some vague noises about thinking about climate change after 2017’s Hurricane Irma, but he’s still the same guy who a few years ago reportedly banned officials at the Florida Department of Environmental Protection from using the terms “climate change” and “global warming.” His inaction on the issue prompted a suit last month from eight children who accused the governor of “deliberate indifference.” (Scott is now running for US Senate.)
If the government won’t do or say much about climate change, it’s good to see the newspapers talking up a storm. They’re representing the people of Florida much more than the politicians are.