Commentary

New Reuters series highlights disappearing coastlines, wasted public funds

Sea-level rise 2Tempting as it may be to deny the hard reality of global warming and rising sea levels, the data continue to slap us in the face like so many crashing whitecaps on a rough day on the Outer Banks.

Many of those data are highlighted in a new, “must read” investigative report from the news service Reuters entitled “Water’s edge: The crisis of rising sea levels.” This report finds that: a) the data are overwhelming and, perhaps even more disturbingly, b) public officials are doing little-to-nothing about the problem except pouring more and more money down a very big drain — even when the impacted area is federal land:

For this article, Reuters analyzed millions of data entries and spent months reporting from affected communities to show that, while government at all levels remains largely unable or unwilling to address the issue, coastal flooding on much of the densely populated Eastern Seaboard has surged in recent years as sea levels have risen.

These findings, first reported July 10, aren’t derived from computer simulations like those used to model future climate patterns, which have been attacked as unreliable by skeptics of climate change research. The analysis is built on a time-tested measuring technology – tide gauges – that has been used for more than a century to help guide seafarers into port.

Reuters gathered more than 25 million hourly readings from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration tide gauges at nearly 70 sites on the Atlantic, Gulf and Pacific coasts and compared them to flood thresholds documented by the National Weather Service….

The Reuters analysis shows that the “impacts of climate change-related sea level rise are increasing frequencies of minor coastal flooding,” said William Sweet, an oceanographer for NOAA who led a team of scientists that released similar findings in late July. The NOAA study examined 45 gauges and found that flooding is increasing in frequency along much of the U.S. coastline and that the rate of increase is accelerating at sites along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts.

The coastal flooding is often minor. Its cumulative consequences are not. As flooding increases in both height and frequency, it exacts a toll in closed businesses, repeated repairs, and investment in protection. In effect, higher seas make the same level of storm and even the same high tides more damaging than they used to be.

Meanwhile, thanks to the fact that the issue of rising seas has gotten mixed up with the controversy over climate change and the passionate denials a of a small group of troubled souls on the far right, the U.S. is basically doing nothing to plan for the inevitable retreat that will have to occur and is wasting billions on construction that will be underwater in not-too-distant future.

Read the report by clicking here.

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