Hot Water

Barton Bibler, who works for Florida’s DEP (Department of Environmental Protection), actually spoke about climate change at an official meeting. He even (gasp!) kept notes of the discussion in official minutes.

In governor Rick Scott’s Florida, that’s a punishable offense. According to PEER (Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility), Bibler has said:

“If you work for the government of the state of Florida, as ruled by governor Rick Scott, you’ll be punished just for uttering the words ‘global warming’ or ‘climate change.'”

Too bad for Florida. Especially since sea level rise — one of the most prominent and obvious impacts of global warming — is already taking a heavy toll on Florida’s economy.

As AP reports, coastal cities from Jacksonville to Miami, from Key West to Pensacola, are already dealing with increased flooding, rapid erosion, and saltwater intrusion into their supply of drinking water. And it’s already costing money.

The list of other problems across the state is growing. Miami Beach is spending $400 million on new stormwater pumps to keep seawater from overwhelming an outdated sewer system.

In St. Augustine, homes built on sand dunes teeter over open space as erosion eats at the foundations. Beachside hotel owners worry about their livelihoods.

Tampa and Miami are particularly vulnerable to rising seas — many roads and bridges weren’t designed to handle higher tides, according to the National Climate Change Assessment. Officials say Daytona Beach roads, too, flood more often than in the 1990s.

The reason is clear, however much governor Rick Scott denies it: man-made global warming.

An important point to bear in mind was voiced by an engineer who is actually trying to help, but getting no help from Rick Scott’s state government. In a state at tremendous risk, if you want real information about the issue, you’ll find more on the internet than from the state Government. But then, Rick Scott’s state government isn’t a help, they’re an obstruction.

“There’s no guidance from the state or federal level. … Everything I’ve found to help I’ve gotten by searching the Internet.”

In some areas, they’re so fed up with Rick Scott’s combination of scientific ignorance and indifference to their problems that they’d rather be a different state:

South Miami passed a resolution calling for South Florida to secede from the more conservative northern half of the state so it could deal with climate change itself.

It’s going to cost even more in the future. The near future, that is:

Insurance giant Swiss Re has estimated that the economy in southeast Florida could sustain $33 billion in damage from rising seas and other climate-related damage in 2030, according to the Miami-Dade Sea Level Rise Task Force.

Despite the fact that Rick Scott is so ideologically driven that he’s willing to deny science itself while the mass of citizens of his own state are at ever-increasing risk, he still tries to maintain that he’s trying to help. But with statements like this:

In a brief interview with the AP in March, Scott wouldn’t address whether the state had a long-range plan. He cited his support for Everglades restoration and some flood-control projects as progress but said cities and counties should contact environmental and water agencies to find answers…

immediately followed by this:

… — though Scott and a GOP-led legislature have slashed billions in funding from those agencies.

I am of the opinion that Rick Scott’s claim to care about Florida’s environment, is nothing but a sham.

Meanwhile, the sea keeps rising.


27 responses to “Hot Water

  1. michael sweet

    They will have a hard time building New Orleans style levees and pumps as described in the linked AP article. In Florida the bedrock is porous limestone. Levees will not keep out water that comes in from below.

    Since they have already noticed greater flooding with about 9 inches of sea level rise, how much higher does it need to be before they become alarmed? Currently rising 1.5 inches per decade.

    Current flood insurance is subsidized by the Federal Government. Will that subsidy continue after the next major hurricane? Even if the hurricane hits Texas there will be a call to stop insuring the coast by the Feds. How long will it be until the next hurricane?

  2. Thanks for this. Tamino, may I link to this post as per usual?

    [Response: Yes.]

    I’m thinking of this article:

    It references the ‘sunny day flooding’ they are seeing in Miami Beach, and an update incorporating some of the information here would be good, I think. The link would be in a sidebar box.

  3. What about the 2010-2011 dip?

    [Response: See this:]

  4. Reblogged this on Hypergeometric and commented:
    “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.”

  5. In a post about sea level rise in Florida, why not show the actual sea level data from tide gages in Florida? These are gages that are sited on rock and do not have subsidence issues. The NOAA data show sea level rise ranging from about 1.5 to 3 mm/yr for the gages in Florida with no obvious acceleration in rise rates. There is a real estate boom in Miami Beach, with developers and buyers voting with their pocketbooks on sea level rise. I love the Swiss Re bit. What could be better than selling insurance for an event that is simply not happening.

    [Response: Every now and then I like to let a comment like this through, just so we can all have some fun. Isn’t that what clowns are for?]

    • Yes, because every dataset, no matter how noisy or incomplete, must show ‘obvious’ acceleration to the eye. Analysis be damned.

    • Those graphs are showing sea level is rising. Are you trying to prove that due to these graphs of past performance, sea level rise is guaranteed not to accelerate?

      The linear 3mm/year trend is about 3.5″ over the course of a 30 year mortgage. That may seem insignificant to folks with meters of elevation beneath them, but for waterfront property and infrastructure dependent on inches of hydraulic head, it can turn the future value of an investment into crap.

    • Bernard J.

      I think that Bob Buckner might be on to something – it’s not global sea level rise, it’s global crustal sinking.

      And global warming? Bah, that’s global thermometer-glass shrinking.

  6. Martin Smith

    If I recall correctly, B Buckner’s Game 6 fielding error in 1986 was caused by subsidence issues at Shea Stadium.

  7. And people wonder why the ferry boats have started running to Cuba again.
    Cuba has mountains. It’s going to outlast Florida.

  8. michael sweet

    Rob Ryan:
    Why don’t we calculate the rate of rise from the bottom of 2011 to the current (I get 6.5 mm/yr, double what Tamino claims)? We can go crazy about how much sea level rise has accelerated. Perhaps Tamino will tell us that it is the long term rate that is important and not the noise in the data.

    • There is a paper out that is about what an acceleration in sea level would look like this many years way from 2100, and in 2015 an acceleration is a tiny increase. 6.5mm/yr would be the acceleration from hell. Call Noah. In recent months the Colorado GMSL site has had two sea level groups raise their number from 3.2mm/yr to 3.3mm/yr. Think small now to get to big by 2100.

  9. I’m only saying, of course, that if we look at the steep rise as suggested by JCH in his/her “2014-2015 spike” comment, it’s as valid to look at the earlier drop. Neither is valid, of course.

    And yes, some time ago, Tamino went through an exercise of determining the best polynomial fit and calculating the sea level rise trend from that. I don’t remember the degree that wound up being the best fit, perhaps Tamino will remind us.

    I do recall a lot of “it sure looks to me like a line is a good fit” type comments.

  10. First, thank you for posting my comment. I appreciate the opportunity to participate in your fine blog. In addition to my clown duties, I am a civil engineer who lives in a coastal community. We have a sea wall that gets battered by storms and needs replacement/rehabilitation every 30 years or so. It would be silly to build a wall that can withstand storm surges that could possibly occur in 100 years, when the wall life span is less than that and it can be raised/buttressed as needed every 30 years. Similarly I belong to a golf club where about 40 percent of the course playing area is below high tide level. A tide gate keeps out the rising tide while allowing the course to drain during low tides. the course was built in 1900 when sea levels were maybe a foot lower and about only 30 percent of the course was below sea level at high tide. When we reach the point where the tide gate no longer functions as intended due to rising seas, the road in which it is located can be raised another foot at little cost.

    With respect to Miami, it is highly doubtful that the recent flooding is due to the rise in sea level of 1″ over the last ten years. The original post deals in anecdotes and none of us is familiar with actual conditions causing the flooding at each location. Regardless, roads, sewers, drain lines and other infrastructure wears out and can be upgraded over time to deal with the rising sea conditions. If pumps are needed now at certain locations, by all means put them in. Spending billions now to solve a problem that may occur in 100 years is not warranted. If sea level rise trends triple in the future there will still be plenty of time to take necessary precautions.

    Lastly, the “error” was a bad hop. It could have happened to anyone. Really.

    • Michael Sweet

      I am surprised that a civil engineer in a coastal location is so blase about sea level rise, especially as it applies to Miami. Most of the city is below 6 feet elevation and a very substantial amount is below 2 feet. The one foot of sea level rise your golf course has experienced causes major issues in a location this low.

      This reference estimates a 1 foot sea level rise will inundate 18% of Miami-Dade county. This amount of sea level rise is not far from the expected sea level rise by 2050. 30 year mortgages are at risk. They have severe, increasing sea water intrusion into their water supply already (partially caused by overpumping). Even a few inches of sea level rise prevent water from draining during heavy thunderstorms at high tide, since there is only an inch rise for a mile run in the drains.

      Estimates for sea level rise call for substantial increases in the rate of sea level rise. Already there are calls for flood insurance subsidies by the federal government to be stopped. If those rates are no longer subsidized many properties in Miami will be rendered uninsurable (virtually all the properties below one foot). The question is not should we build billion dollar protection structures but should the city stop wasting federal money installing pumps that will be inadaquate in a decade or two. If we start reducing CO2 immediately the city might still be saved.

      I looked up your baseball career and you certainly did well for a long time.

    • So, what is the cost of losing Miami Beach? (Miami is slightly besides the point as it is not on a barrier island)

      A good place to start is Jerry Mitovica’s Sackler seminar A bit corny and disorganized in the first five minutes, but stay with it

    • The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse

      There is a real estate boom in Miami Beach, with developers and buyers voting with their pocketbooks on sea level rise.

      Using local real-estate market activity to qualify the conclusions of an entire scientific discipline always results in optimal outcomes. Because people never do stupid things with money.

      When we reach the point where the tide gate no longer functions as intended due to rising seas, the road in which it is located can be raised another foot at little cost.

      This is why I love engineers. They are so charmingly optimistic.

      Here’s what Ft. Lauderdale will look like with 1.25 m of sea level rise – and no storm surge.

      Have you ever tried to play golf wearing scuba gear?

  11. First off, I want to be clear, I am not the baseball player, my first name is Bob. All of this new development on the Miami water front is undoubtedly designed to avoid damage from storm surge. Below is what optimistic engineers did 150 years ago. This is why I love engineers.

    “During the 1850s and 1860s engineers carried out a piecemeal raising of the level of central Chicago. Streets, sidewalks and buildings were either built up, relocated, or physically raised on hydraulic jacks or jackscrews. The work was funded by private property owners and public funds.”
    “During the 19th century, the elevation of the Chicago area was not much higher than the shorelines of Lake Michigan, so for many years there was little or no naturally occurring drainage from the city surface. The lack of drainage caused unpleasant living conditions, and standing water harbored pathogens that caused numerous epidemics. Epidemics including typhoid fever and dysentery blighted Chicago six years in a row culminating in the 1854 outbreak of cholera that killed six percent of the city’s population.[2][3][4][5]. The crisis forced the city’s engineers and aldermen to take the drainage problem seriously and after many heated discussions[6][7]—and following at least one false start—a solution eventually materialized. In 1856, engineer Ellis S. Chesbrough drafted a plan for the installation of a city-wide sewerage system and submitted it to the Common Council, which adopted the plan. Workers then laid drains, covered and refinished roads and sidewalks with several feet of soil, and raised most buildings to the new grade with hydraulic jacks.”

    [Response: Perhaps you could address some of the points made in this post, to whit, that there is indeed acceleration in sea level (including the data from Florida tide gauges), that the pattern of rate changes is much more complex than those who want to avoid facing the truth will admit, that those models which best match historical data are those which suggest the highest sea level rise this century, that arguments such as “it’s only an inch” are simplistic and ignore the crucial issue of storm surge, that the idea it’ll be cheap and easy to “raise” things when large areas of land are underwater is sticking your head in the sand, etc. etc. etc.

    You might also comment on the practice in governor Rick Scott’s administration of censoring any mention of the issue of climate change or global warming — quite apart from any argument over how much it affects sea level rise.

    If you’re unwilling to admit (to yourself even) any serious errors in your statements so far then it’ll be very hard for you to learn. In which case, this probably isn’t the place for you.]

    • The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse

      Below is what optimistic engineers did 150 years ago.


      With modern optimism, raising the Southern part of the State of Florida by a several feet should be child’s play.

      Which is a good thing – since the optimism will also be needed in New York, New Orleans, and Boston, as well as several other large American coastal cities.

      GHG emissions to date have already locked in about 4 feet of sea level rise above today’s levels. That is enough, at high tide, to submerge more than half of today’s population in 316 coastal cities and towns in the lower 48 states.

      And that’s just in mainland USA.

      And we’re still optimistically emitting GHGs like there’s no tomorrow.

    • OK, fair enough. If I were governor, I would be publicly monitoring sea level rise very closely. I would assemble a diverse panel of experts to evaluate the data and make periodic projections of expected sea level rise rates over medium and long term time frames. I would change building codes to require all private projects/homes to be built to accommodate sea level rise. All public works would be designed to the same standards. The governor’s stance on the semantics of sea level rise is silly and potentially dangerous, regardless about what one thinks of climate change.

      My argument on storm surge is that one inch is insignificant; whereas what is significant is the magnitude of the surge that can total 10, 15 or 20 feet in height.

      With that said, your analysis of Florida sea level rise acceleration appears to me to be weak. When it comes to temperature, you preach repeatedly that it is the trend, trend, trend that matters, with strict statistical standards imposed on the premise that the trend is changing. Here for sea level, a recent brief increase in rate, something that happened in the past several times with rates subsequently returning to trend, is evidence the trend has changed. Its your blog and you are the expert, but you appear to lack consistency in your arguments to suit a desired conclusion.

      [Response: Perhaps you missed the part where I stated “Yes, I’ve done many of those tests too. Yes, I’ve done them using monthly data and proper allowance for autocorrelation rather than just using annual averages. Yes, the rate of sea level rise around Florida has shown acceleration.”

      But I guess if I don’t give every explicit detail every time, you might interpret that as “weak” to suit avoiding an undesired conclusion. If a rigorous approach is what you want, you can start here.]

      Thanks again for the space on your blog.

      • Hah!! You reference me to a Springer publication where I have to pay $40 to buy your paper. In my professional life separate from climate change I recently published a paper through a Springer periodical. I had a choice of paying Springer $3,500 and having the paper available to all who request it, or have Springer charge everyone $40 for a copy of my work. So I wrote the paper, and did all the work, and Springer profits. Not sure what your experience was, but I felt abused.

        [Response: Eventually you just get used to it. But you might be able to get it here:]

      • B Buckner | May 14, 2015 at 1:38 am |
        Hah!! You reference me to a Springer publication where I have to pay $40 to buy your paper.

        Or you could go to a library!

  12. IMHO what is useful is a set of trendlines across the CU Boulder graph, showing the change in rate. One can go back on the Googles and find charts from, say, 2008 that show the rate is less than today, but you can’t see the change on one chart.

    Just a thought.



  13. BB,

    Fine for your golf course. How much to protect Bangladesh homes and farms? Can Bangladesh afford it? Not the only example I could give.

  14. Exactly, Matt, those living in the Niger, Nile, Irrawaddy, Ganges, Mekong and other river delta regions and the millions who depend on the food grown there apparently just don’t count in B Buckner’s world.