Elizabeth Kolbert, writing for The New Yorker on south Florida’s battle against rising sea levels:
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, sea
levels could rise by more than three feet by the end of this
century. The United States Army Corps of Engineers projects that
they could rise by as much as five feet; the National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration predicts up to six and a half feet.
According to Wanless, all these projections are probably low. In
his office, Wanless keeps a jar of meltwater he collected from the
Greenland ice sheet. He likes to point out that there is plenty
more where that came from.
“Many geologists, we’re looking at the possibility of a
ten-to-thirty-foot range by the end of the century,” he told me.
We got back into the car. Driving with one hand, Wanless shot
pictures out the window with the other. “Look at that,” he said.
“Oh, my gosh!” We’d come to a neighborhood of multimillion-dollar
homes where the water was creeping under the security gates and up
the driveways. Porsches and Mercedeses sat flooded up to their
In Miami-Dade County, the average elevation is just six feet above
sea level. The county’s highest point, aside from man-made
structures, is only about twenty-five feet, and no one seems
entirely sure where it is. (The humorist Dave Barry once set out
to climb Miami-Dade’s tallest mountain, and ended up atop a local
garbage dump nicknamed Mt. Trashmore.) Broward County, which
includes Fort Lauderdale, is equally flat and low, and Monroe
County, which includes the Florida Keys, is even more so.
But South Florida’s problems also run deeper. The whole region —
indeed, most of the state — consists of limestone that was laid
down over the millions of years Florida sat at the bottom of a
shallow sea. The limestone is filled with holes, and the holes
are, for the most part, filled with water.
It’s like trying to protect a sand castle against the tide, just with a longer time scale.