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3p Weekend: 5 Cities Already Feeling the Effects of Climate Change

Mary Mazzoni
| Friday July 18th, 2014 | 25 Comments
A local man paddles past submerged cars on South Beach in Miami in 2009. Locals say the rising tides are only getting worse.

A local man paddles past submerged cars on South Beach in Miami in 2009. Locals say the rising tides are only getting worse.

With a busy week behind you and the weekend within reach, there’s no shame in taking things a bit easy on Friday afternoon. With this in mind, every Friday TriplePundit will give you a fun, easy read on a topic you care about. So, take a break from those endless email threads, and spend five minutes catching up on the latest trends in sustainability and business.

While some still view climate change as some distant or unidentifiable threat (and others simply argue its effects “won’t be so bad”), the impacts of rising tides and surging temperatures are already changing lives around the world. From South Florida to the Pacific Islands, this list represents thousands of lives that are forever altered by the warming climate — and a threat to millions more unless something changes quickly.

1. Miami, Florida, United States

“Climate change is no longer viewed as a future threat round here,” atmosphere expert Professor Ben Kirtman, of the University of Miami, told the Guardian in a recent interview. “It is something that we are having to deal with today.”

As noted by the Guardian, Miami’s once glamorous beachfront thoroughfare has been reduced to a one-lane passage in many places, with blockades and road work closing in on all sides to stop the rising tide. Every year, with the coming of fall and spring tides, ocean surges break up over the beach and pour through storm drains — destroying cars and damaging homes and businesses.

“This never used to happen,” laundromat owner Eliseo Toussaint told the New York Times, as he watched saltwater fill the streets and block his front door. “I’ve owned this place eight years and now it’s all the time.”

Read more in the Guardian.

2. Bangkok, Thailand

Bangkok residents are already experiencing dramatic temperature increases as a result of climate change, with rising tides threatening further damage. The average maximum temperatures observed in Bangkok have risen by 0.8 degrees Celsius from 1961 to 2007, the United Nations Environmental Program highlights in a new report.

According to the report: “The impacts of climate change on the city are likely to be quite severe, including major flooding due to Bangkok’s low elevation, increased land subsidence which is already occurring, problems of water supply provision and contamination, air pollution and oppressive heat with associated health consequences, increases in infectious diseases and decrease in biomass production.”

Read more from the U.N. Environmental Program.

3. Coastal cities in Indonesia and Bangladesh

Thousands of coastal residents have already been forced to flee their homes and move into shantytowns in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

Thousands of coastal residents have already been forced to flee their homes and move into shantytowns in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

Experts expect about 250 million people worldwide to move by 2050 as a result of climate change. Of those, 20 million to 30 million climate change refugees are expected to come from Bangladesh, likely the largest number from one place, the Toronto Star reports.

Already, cyclones, tropical storms and other natural disasters, along with rising sea levels, have forced thousands from their homes in coastal Indonesia and Bangladesh into the slums of Dhaka. After taking residence in the overcrowded city, many find a home in shantytowns, where sanitation is minimal to nonexistent and monsoon season often brings malaria and cholera outbreaks.

Read more in the Toronto Star.

4. Newtok, Alaska, United States

Last year, the Guardian ran a compelling and timely four-part series entitled “America’s First Climate Refugees.” Specifically, the series focused on native Alaskan villages on the shores of the Bering Sea.

In the village of Newtok, for example, floods and erosion are eating away the land at alarming rates. Shorter, warmer winters, earlier springs and rising waters threaten to transform the area into an ever-shrinking island, which could completely disappear, possibly within the next five years.

Some coastal Alaskan villages are exploring ways to prevent erosion and flood damage, but in areas like Newtok, which is situated in a low-lying wetlands unable to support infrastructure projects, residents have no choice but to move.

Read more in the Guardian.

5. Sovereign Pacific islands

The first mass exodus related to climate change has already happened in Kiribati, a group of 32 islands located in the central tropical Pacific Ocean. Back in 2012, the archipelago began moving its entire population to Fiji to avoid rising seas. If rising sea levels persist at current rates, the entire nation will be submerged by 2100.

Unfortunately, Kiribati is not alone. The Caterat Islanders of Papua New Guinea, for example, were the world’s first community to be entirely displaced by climate change. The island is predicted to be completely underwater by 2015.

Read more here on Triple Pundit.

Image credits: 1.) Flickr/maxstrz 2.) Flickr/eguidetravel

Based in Philadelphia, Mary Mazzoni is a senior editor at TriplePundit. She is also a freelance journalist who frequently writes about sustainability, corporate social responsibility and clean tech. Her work has appeared in the Philadelphia Daily News, the Huffington Post, Sustainable Brands, Earth911 and the Daily Meal. You can follow her on Twitter @mary_mazzoni.


▼▼▼      25 Comments     ▼▼▼

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  • Schlibdiver

    Hypochondriacs see everything as a sign of disease. Climochondriacs suffer from the psychosis.

    • jimshannon

      Aren’t you clever. got facts?

  • Homer

    The sea is rising…the sky is falling…same concept. The east coast is sinking as to the fact the west coast is riding up on another tectonic plate. That is why there are a lot more earth quakes in California than Florida. DUH…

    • jimshannon

      No Homer, it’s DOH.

  • Mikki Mousse

    Climate changes? Gee, who’d a thunk it?
    Somebody run and tell ‘Ozone Al’ Gore that the sky is falling.

  • markopar

    Earth Day, 1970:

    “We have about five more years at the outside to do something.”
    • Kenneth Watt, ecologist

    “Scientists have solid experimental and theoretical evidence to support…the following predictions: In a decade, urban dwellers will have to wear gas masks to survive air pollution…by 1985 air pollution will have reduced the amount of sunlight reaching earth by one half….”
    • Life Magazine

    “Civilization will end within 15 or 30 years unless immediate action is taken against problems facing mankind.”
    • George Wald, Harvard Biologist

    “We are in an environmental crisis which threatens the survival of this nation, and of the world as a suitable place of human habitation.”
    • Barry Commoner, Washington University biologist

    “Man must stop pollution and conserve his resources, not merely to enhance existence but to save the race from intolerable deterioration and possible extinction.”
    • New York Times editorial, the day after the first Earth Day

    “Population will inevitably and completely outstrip whatever small increases in food supplies we make. The death rate will increase until at least 100-200 million people per year will be starving to death during the next ten years.”
    • Paul Ehrlich, Stanford University biologist

    “By…[1975] some experts feel that food shortages will have escalated the present level of world hunger and starvation into famines of unbelievable proportions. Other experts, more optimistic, think the ultimate food-population collision will not occur until the decade of the 1980s.”
    • Paul Ehrlich, Stanford University biologist

    “It is already too late to avoid mass starvation.”
    • Denis Hayes, chief organizer for Earth Day

    “Demographers agree almost unanimously on the following grim timetable: by 1975 widespread famines will begin in India; these will spread by 1990 to include all of India, Pakistan, China and the Near East, Africa. By the year 2000, or conceivably sooner, South and Central America will exist under famine conditions….By the year 2000, thirty years from now, the entire world, with the exception of Western Europe, North America, and Australia, will be in famine.”
    • Peter Gunter, professor, North Texas State University

  • markopar

    Earth Day, 1970:

    “We have about five more years at the outside to do something.”
    • Kenneth Watt, ecologist

    “Scientists have solid experimental and theoretical evidence to support…the following predictions: In a decade, urban dwellers will have to wear gas masks to survive air pollution…by 1985 air pollution will have reduced the amount of sunlight reaching earth by one half….”
    • Life Magazine

    “Civilization will end within 15 or 30 years unless immediate action is taken against problems facing mankind.”
    • George Wald, Harvard Biologist

    “We are in an environmental crisis which threatens the survival of this nation, and of the world as a suitable place of human habitation.”
    • Barry Commoner, Washington University biologist

    “Man must stop pollution and conserve his resources, not merely to enhance existence but to save the race from intolerable deterioration and possible extinction.”
    • New York Times editorial, the day after the first Earth Day

    “Population will inevitably and completely outstrip whatever small increases in food supplies we make. The death rate will increase until at least 100-200 million people per year will be starving to death during the next ten years.”
    • Paul Ehrlich, Stanford University biologist

    “By…[1975] some experts feel that food shortages will have escalated the present level of world hunger and starvation into famines of unbelievable proportions. Other experts, more optimistic, think the ultimate food-population collision will not occur until the decade of the 1980s.”
    • Paul Ehrlich, Stanford University biologist

    “It is already too late to avoid mass starvation.”
    • Denis Hayes, chief organizer for Earth Day

    “Demographers agree almost unanimously on the following grim timetable: by 1975 widespread famines will begin in India; these will spread by 1990 to include all of India, Pakistan, China and the Near East, Africa. By the year 2000, or conceivably sooner, South and Central America will exist under famine conditions….By the year 2000, thirty years from now, the entire world, with the exception of Western Europe, North America, and Australia, will be in famine.”
    • Peter Gunter, professor, North Texas State University

  • markopar

    Government Will Control You Before It Controls Climate
    May 7, 2014 – 5:24 AM
    By Terence P. Jeffrey
    Subscribe to Terence P. Jeffrey RSS
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    Ultimately, it will not matter if people in government cynically promote the theory that human activity is destroying the global climate as a means of taking control of your life, or if they take control of your life because they sincerely believe human activity is destroying the global climate.

    Either way, government will control of your life.

    The National Climate Assessment the Obama administration released this week describes in Sisyphean terms the task government faces in limiting carbon dioxide emissions, which the assessment says make up 84 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions it holds guilty of artificially warming our planet.

    “Of the carbon dioxide emitted from human activities in a year, about half is removed from the atmosphere by natural processes within a century, but around 20 percent continues to circulate and to effect atmospheric concentrations for thousands of years,” says the report. “Stabilizing or reducing atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations, therefore, require very deep reductions in future emissions — ultimately approaching zero — to compensate for past emissions that are still circulating in the Earth system.”

    How would government start down the road to achieving zero carbon dioxide emissions from human activities?

    “The two dominant production sectors responsible for these emissions are electric power generation (coal and gas) and transportation (petroleum),” says the assessment.

    “Over the period 1963-2008,” says the assessment, “annual U.S. carbon dioxide emissions slightly more than doubled, because growth in emissions potential attributable to increases in population and GDP per person outweighed reductions contributed by lowered energy and carbon intensity and changes in economic structure.”

    In sum, America had too many people enjoying too much wealth while traveling too freely and using too much electricity.

    Some jerk with a wife, three kids and a station wagon went on too many long drives back in 1965, recklessly spitting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, some of which will still be there long after Barack Obama has surrendered the Oval Office.

    Worse, each of the station wagon drivers’ three kids now own an air-conditioned home with a two-car garage, housing a minivan and an SUV.

    At a United Nations conference in Mexico in 2010, the Obama Administration pledged to cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions to 17 percent less than what they were in 2005. That, however, would get the United States nowhere near zero — let alone where we were in 1965.

    And, even if the U.S. government prohibited Americans from emitting a single burp of CO2, what would it matter if China and India and Indonesia and Pakistan continued to grow their own economies and populations and concomitant emissions?

    Hurricanes would whip Florida, tornadoes would torment Kansas, and the sea level would threaten low-lying areas of New York and New Jersey — as Americans huddled in their hot, humid hovels — because environmentally insensitive peoples in Shanghai and Islamabad were still buying new cars and turning up their air-conditioning.

    White House science adviser John P. Holdren — who, along with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Administrator Kathryn Sullivan, released the administration’s climate assessment — has been thinking about problems like this for decades.

    Forty-one years ago, he published “Human Ecology: Problems and Solution,” co-authored with Paul and Anne Ehrlich, who had written “The Population Bomb.”

    “Environmental degradation is not the sum of independent causes, it is the multiplicative product of interconnected ones,” Holdren and the Ehrlichs wrote. “The relation can be written as a mathematical equation: total environmental damage equals population, times the level of material affluence per person, times the environmental damage done by the technology we use to supply each bit of affluence.”

    “Halting population growth must be done, but that alone would not be enough,” they wrote. “Stabilizing or reducing the per capita consumption of resources in the United States is necessary, but not sufficient. Attempts to reduce technology’s impact on the environment are essential, but ultimately will be futile if population and affluence grow unchecked.”

    “Clearly,” they said, “if there is to be any chance of success, simultaneous attacks must be mounted on all components of the problem.”

    “A massive campaign must be launched to restore a high-quality environment in North America and to de-develop the United States,” they concluded.

    “The need for de-development presents our economists with a major challenge,” they said. “They must design a stable, low-consumption economy in which there is a much more equitable distribution of wealth than in the present one. Redistribution of wealth both within and among nations is absolutely essential, if a decent life is to be provided for every human being.”

    Two decades later, in an essay published by the World Bank, Holdren, Ehrlich and Gretchen Daily of Stanford University, reiterated this analysis. “We know for certain, for example,” they wrote, ” No form of material growth (including population growth), is sustainable.”

    “This is enough,” they said, “to say quite a lot about what needs to be faced up to eventually (a world of zero net physical growth), what should be done now (change unsustainable practices, reduce excessive material consumption, slow down population growth), and what the penalty will be for postponing attention to population limitation (lower well-being per person).”

    In a nation where government can de-develop the economy, stop population growth and redistribute wealth both inside and outside its borders, there will still be droughts, floods and hot summer nights.

    But there will be no freedom.

    • Buggerthat

      That was a great pile of BS.

  • Enjoyer

    Scientific evidence shows that sea level rise has slowed to a level less than the 100 year average. Sea levels have been rebounding since the last ice age ended. Most if not all coastal flooding is due to human – caused land use problems. The good news is there’s nothing to fear but fear mongers.

    • Buggerthat

      Where did you hear that lie?

      • Enjoyer

        I feel sad for you, sir, as you often are resorting to invective rather than facts. The facts of my post are solid. Of course, if you choose to have your news handed to you and not sift through many outlets to get at hidden, suppressed or under-reported facts, then you have to take what they give you. Perhaps that explains why you characterize my factual statements as lies. They’re not, as a simple web search on either or both would tell you that. If you like being controlled by your thought minders, fine. But they aren’t serving your interests. They’re serving their own. Beware.

        • Buggerthat

          If you were presenting actual facts instead of lies, all you would have to do to shut me up and show me for a fool is to cite a source. Instead, you resort to the sort of goofy rhetoric Denialists use when called on their lies.

      • Leon

        HE MOST DEFINITELY DID NOT HEAR IT HERE:

        AL GORE (1993): “Because of the rising sea level, due to global warming, in the next few decades … up to 60 percent of the present population of Florida may have to be relocated.”

        But MAYBE he heard it here:

        NOAA 2012 REPORT FINDS SEA LEVELSRISING SIGNIFICANTLY LESS THAN THE RATE CLAIMED BY THE IPCC: According to the latest NOAA sea level budget, global sea levels rose at only .8 – 2.4 mm/year from 2005-2012, which is significantly less than the rate claimed by the IPCC [3.1 mm/yr]

        Or here:

        All five datasets measuring sea level rise indicate a 31% reduction in the rate of sea level rise since 2005.

        Or here:

        Dr. Lennart Bengtsson, formerly of UN IPCC: ‘The sea level has risen fairly evenly for a hundred years by 2-3 millimeters per year. The pitch is not accelerated’.

        Or here:

        The latest paper from Swedish sea-level expert, Nils Axel Morner: Best estimates for future sea level changes up to the year 2100 are in the range of +5 cm ±15 cm. ENERGY & ENVIRONMENT, VOLUME 24 No. 3 & 4 2013

        Or here:

        Published in the Journal of Coastal Research. According to the latest NOAA sea level budget, global sea levels rose at only 1.1 – 1.3 mm/year from 2005-2012, which is less than half of the rate claimed by the IPCC [3.1 mm/yr.] and is equivalent to less than 5 inches per century. Contrary to claims, sea level rise decelerated over the 20th century, has also decelerated since 2005′

        Or here:

        1990 IPCC Report : No Acceleration Of Sea Level Rise During The 20th Century. They reported that sea level is rising at 1-2 mm/year.

        Or here:

        Using Satellites, NOAA Determines That The Global Sea Rise Is Nearing Zero: ‘A new study by NOAA confirms that the actual sea level rise is slowly decelerating to zero’

        Or here:

        ‘In examining sea-level changes for 100 years or more from stations on the Eastern Seaboard, Mr. Galvin could not find any acceleration in sea-level rise’. ‘University of Florida professor Robert Dean
        and Army Corps of Engineers analyst James Houston have independently reached this same conclusion’

        Or here:

        New Paper by Chambers et al finds “sea level has been rising on average by 1.7 mm/year over the last 110 years.” Sea level rise decelerated over the 20th century, has also decelerated since 2005, and there is no evidence of any human influence on sea levels.

        Or here:

        New peer-reviewed paper finds no evidence of a human influence on sea levels — Published in Journal of Climate — ‘Examines global average sea-level rise during 20th century’ Finds 1) Global sea level rise was constant throughout 20th century, with ‘small or no acceleration, despite increasing forcing,’ ie. increased CO2 has not accelerated sea-level rise. 2) The rate of glacier mass loss ‘was not smaller in 1st than in 2nd half of century,’ ie., increased CO2 has not accelerated glacier mass loss’

        Or here:

        New Study sea level expert Prof. Morner: ‘At most, global average sea level is rising at a rate equivalent to 2-3 inches per century. It is probably not rising at
        all': Sea level is not rising at all in the Maldives, the Laccadives, Tuvalu, India, Bangladesh, French Guyana, Venice, Cuxhaven, Korsør, Saint Paul Island, Qatar, etc.– ‘Modeling is not a suitable method of determining global sea-level changes.”

  • Stanley

    Anybody in affected areas should be thinking about moving. Greenland was green once it will be again.

    • Buggerthat

      Only liars and fools use lying sock puppet talking points.

      37. “Greenland was green”

      The Greenland ice sheet has existed for at least 400,000 years. There may have been regions of Greenland that were ‘greener’ than today, but they were isolated areas along the southern coast.

  • darnash

    The sunspot activity is suddenly non existent. Look out, global cooling and worries about an ice age is right around the corner.

  • Buggerthat

    They left out Norfolk.

  • Stanley

    The climate change from the 70’s into 90’s was caused by a reversal of the ocean temperatures in the pacific that happen every so many years. IE it now cold in the west and warm in the east. It about to switch to warm in the west and cold in the east. So much for CO2 warming the planet. SO2 in the atmosphere is one of the factors affecting the temperature of the planet primarily from volcanoes.

  • Science Officer

    Here in Tomah, Wis. it just rained on our annual family reunion picnic. First time anyone can remember. Had to cancel the softball game, of course. Mabel’s twins got in a ruckus with Ernie’s two boys and no one even touched the potato salad . We’re blaming global warming for the whole fiasco and figure we ought to get a check from the United Nations or something. For as much money as we all spent on gas to get there, you’d think someone would be able to control the weather by now. Well, gotta go now. Send us our global warming money when you get the chance. Thanks.

  • david russell

    What a load of tripe as far as Miami is concerned. Miami’s drainage has sucked since forever. The real problem is overuse of freshwater and back fill from the ocean sea water. This isn’t about climate change, but rather poor urban planning.
    As for the rest, the oceans are rising at 8″ per century (so BFD) and this has been know for decades. This may be entirely an artifact or our still emerging from the LIA, and may have little or nothing to do with AGW. In any event, eventually the rich countries will do what the Netherlands has done (adjust). The rest will have to move.

  • Charlotte Blackwood

    In a related article, a brief introduction to the serious problems with data used in global warming models: http://bit.ly/1uVoaKQ

  • Gale Hawthorne

    State of Fear: Science fiction director James Cameron’s latest attempt to perpetuate the man-made global-warming myth: http://bit.ly/1rdgGUY

  • Andy Dufresne

    In a related story, a fairly typical example of the types of lunatics who worship at the altar of man-made global-warming: http://dly.st/1v8loVT

  • Captain Reacher

    Nothing is incontrovertible in a complex scientific field like atmospheric science and climate.