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Speaking of Sea-Level Rise. Or, “Mom, don’t you know what I do for a living?”

July 6th, 2012 · 2 Comments

At the second annual Association of Climate Change Officers (ACCO) meeting on the military and climate change,  John Englander gave a lunch-time talk based on his forthcoming book on sea-level rise: High-Tide on Main Street.

Englander tried to structure his presentation as “non-partisan”, stating that his book aimed to reach people who might be ‘turned off’ by Gore (my term/summary of comments).

Englander stated that there ways that the film Inconvenient Truth creating paths that could (or did) mislead people (even as he emphasized that, in looking at the body of his work and speaking, the Vice President seeks to remain fidel to honest discussion of the science).  Englander spoke specifically about how the rising sea level charts around Manhattan and Florida were such a case.

  1. Because the structure of the film suggested that Gore was stating this (9 meter sea level rise) would occur this century (even though, as Englander stated, this is not what the film / the Vice-President said); and
  2. Sea level rise is a global, inexorable thing driven by global warming that has some tremendous differentiation when examined locally.

Re Manhattan & Miami, Englander discussed:

  • Manhattan is built on impermeable, granite-type rock and has essentially zero subsidence. And, Englander asserted, it would be possible to build a sea wall to protect Manhattan infrastructure from sea level rise for 50+ years.
  • Miami is built on porous (limestone) and has subsidence. Thus, (a) it is not just sea level rise and (b) a sea wall couldn’t protect infrastructure as the water would rise up behind the wall due to the porous stone.

This led Englander to draw in ACCO Executive Director Daniel Kreeger.  Kreeger had spent the previous week in Florida at the first Sea Level Rise Summit and he opened the ACCO conference speaking about that meeting.  Englander, however, did not ask Kreeger to speak about the Summit but to relate a Kreeger-family story related to the conference’s subject matter.

Kreeger’s story (paraphrased):

In Fall 2010, I was home in Miami and there was several inches of sitting water in my parent’s neighborhood on Miami Beach.

I said “Wow, you must have gotten a ton of rain this week.

My mother responded, “Nope, just full moon and high tide.

My parents bought that house in 1972, so I was born and raised there.  I don’t remember that happening when I was a kid other than tropical storms and hurricanes. So, I asked: “Mom, was there flooding in the neighborhood when I was a kid from high tide?”

She responded “not that I remember.”

I then asked her if she understood why it was happening … in response to which she shook her head.  So I said, “that’s climate change and sea level rise.  That’s what your son does for a living.”

Here I am the head of a climate-change non-profit and my own mother How To Boil A Frogwasn’t connecting the dots.  Let’s be clear, we’re not talking about an unintelligent or unaccomplished woman. My mother is a retired judge and is currently one of the State department’s delegates on international treaty talks involving abducted children.

John Englander

This is the boiling frog.

When it happens so slowly, people don’t notice.

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Tags: catastrophic climate change · climate change · science

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Tipping point on climate change politics? // Jul 7, 2012 at 9:11 pm

    […] Speaking of Sea-Level Rise. Or, “Mom, don’t you know what I do for a living?” […]

  • 2 Yuli // Jul 22, 2012 at 5:58 pm

    there will be fossil corabn corporations and governments of states with large fossil corabn extraction industries who see climate action as a real threats to their profits, employment levels and tax revenue.The climate action opponent attack fronts include:1. The risks are exaggerated: a. Climate science is grossly exaggerating the effect of rising greenhouse gas levels on climate. b. The impact of temperature increases and higher CO2 levels are exaggerated.2. The action required to slow climate change will destroy our country’s/the world’s economy.On each of these fronts what is being put forward by climate action supporters is complex. There is the inherently complex science and complex action plans based on ETS or corabn taxes. There is not a great deal that can be done about the science at this stage although some of the communication might be improved.On the other hand there are things that can be done about the action plan. It is pointless getting sucked into arguments about long term targets. All that is doing is convincing people that it is all too hard. What we need at the moment is a simple action plan for the next 5 to 10 years. An action plan that can at least convince people that there are easy things that can be done to at least slow down the rate of climate change until we are better prepared to do something about it.