Global temperatures have been recorded systematically since 1850 and it is clear that the Earth has heated with temperatures spiking since the 1970’s. Land temperatures have risen more quickly than ocean surface temperatures, but these vast watery expanses are also being impacted by the melting ice caps. Global heat records are being set almost every year since 2000, with 17 of the 18 hottest years being recorded since the turn of the century. Increased heat means an alteration in local climates, more severe storms and hurricanes, more droughts and rising sea levels as saltwater expands.
Rising seas are, of course, a great concern for Florida, a state with 3,150 miles of shoreline. Major cities like Miami, Tampa, Jacksonville and Pensacola are on the coast and home to millions of residents. Miami has for years experienced “sunny day” high tides and saltwater in the streets. Moreover, as the heavier saltwater encroaches on the land, it pushes back the underground freshwater we rely on to drink and survive. This is due to our karstic geology: most of the state is underpinned by swiss-cheese like limestone.
This new normal is costing us. The US Army Corps of Engineers has proposed a plan costing $5.5 billion just to save a few thousand homes in the Florida Keys. Our natural landscapes and inhabitants are also feeling the impact.