Coastal towns in the US, mostly on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts have begun to be threatened by rising sea levels, turning abstract climate change predictions into urgent problems for cities to solve. In places like Norfolk, Virginia, Tybee Island, Georgia, and Fort Lauderdale, Florida, residents and the local government are searching for solutions while the federal government drags its feet on the issue. Tidal floods, still typically only a few feet deep, are able to stop traffic, flood basements, damage cars, and contaminate wells with saltwater. Meanwhile, heavy rains are increasing throughout the country, which together with coastal inundation leads to floods like the recent disaster in Louisiana.
Coastal communities like Miami Beach are at the forefront of coping with these changes, as concerned citizens demand action from local government. The town has a 400-million-dollar plan to raise streets, install pumps, and raise sea walls. In similarly threatened communities, mayors, including both democrats and republicans are calling attention to the crisis. Republican mayor Jason Buelterman, of Tybee Island, Georgia, has made his town one of the first to enact a detailed climate change strategy. This sets a stark contrast with Republicans in congress, who have even blocked plans by the military to protect coastal bases from rising sea levels, with one congressman calling the plan part of a “radical climate change agenda.”
The urgency of this problem is ever increasing. Nava bases, which can’t be moved away from the ocean, are predicted to lose much of their land to rising sea levels by 2100. The military has already attempted to develop broad plans for climate change, but have been blocked by congress. This past summer, the Pentagon attempted to appoint officers to be in charge of adapting to climate change, but a vote in the House of Representatives prevented any taxpayer money from being spent on these efforts.
Republicans in congress have even gone so far as to support conspiracy theories that climate change was invented by researchers in order to justify increased government control. Positions such as this one have rendered the federal government deaf to the evidence coming from coastal cities like Miami Beach, Ft. Lauderdale, Tybee Island, and Norfolk, among many others.
Agreements reached in Paris last year, which themselves are considered by some scientists to be inadequate, are threatened by the possibility of a Donald Trump victory in this November’s presidential elections. In any case, efforts by the federal government will be hampered by congress, until those who deny the impact of climate change become solidly in the minority.