August 28, 2013

I don't know anyone anymore who argues that global warming isn't happening -- except the folks at Fox News, who are so heavily invested in protecting their right-wing denialist agenda. But even for them, this is bad. Media Matters:

Fox News reported on the "very unusual problem" of diminishing sand at Florida beaches, terming it an "environmental ... crisis of the future." However, the network did not mention that phenomenon's connection to sea level rise, a major consequence of climate change.

Because Roger might be watching, and they want to keep their nice jobs?

On Tuesday's edition of Happening Now, correspondent Phil Keating checked in from Miami Beach to relate that some beaches in Florida are "running out of sand." This, he said, threatens the region's booming beach tourism industry and indirectly weakens an important buffer against hurricane damage as municipalities are forced to take sand from offshore to replace what has been lost. The segment went on to explain that Broward County, which contains Fort Lauderdale, has considered grinding up glass to substitute for sand.

To its credit, Fox News explained that erosion is to blame for this sand shortage (rather than, say, aliens). Unfortunately, the network did not mention any of the underlying trends driving such changes, prominentamong which is rising sea levels along with coastal development and high foot traffic. As Climate Centralreported in 2012, climate change could make matters much worse:

And then there's the growing danger of sea level rise, caused by climate change. "Even 25 years ago, sea level was rising," [U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) scientist Asbury] Sallenger said in a recent interview, "but not a heck of a lot." But that's changing as the planet's temperature keeps going up, sea water keeps expanding and ice is flowing faster to the ocean, especially in Greenland and Antarctica.

"If sea level rises another foot," said Duke University beach expert Orrin Pilkey in an interview, "the shoreline in northeastern North Carolina could be pushed back 5 or 6 miles. And all of the projections I've seen suggest it will be more like 3 feet by 2100."

Gee. I wonder if there's anything at all that could slow that down. Wait, I'm already watching Fox News, so I know it's all caused by the snail darter that liberals won't let developers kill!

For decades, Florida has been using the expensive stopgap method of "beach nourishment" or "beach replenishment" (transplanting sand from elsewhere) to forestall disaster. According to a 2005 USGS study, this has been fairly effective, and helped keep the state from being hit as hard as others in the Southeast Atlantic.

But as Pilkey told Climate Central, beach nourishment will become much harder "with even a 2-foot [sea-level] rise," at which point "there will be just too great a rate of loss" to continue building along the beach. Given current sea level forecasts, the sand deficit seems to be a true emergency -- especially with Miami likely to be on the front lines of climate change.

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