Like Neville Chamberlain, but hopefully with a better outcome, I am offering “peace in our time.” How about if we bury the hatchet on climate change, declare a moratorium on talking about what is causing it, and start discussing how we will deal with it.
Like a car that careens out of control into your house, this is not a political issue. It is happening, as countless coastal communities, including Charleston and Tybee Island, will testify.
In Norfolk, Virginia, at the south end of the Chesapeake Bay, upright rulers are being planted in the streets so drivers can judge whether it is safe to proceed through flooded areas. The Pentagon predicts a direct sea-rise hit on defense capabilities, especially for the Navy. In Fort Lauderdale, millions of dollars are being spent to repair broken roads and for pumps to suck saltwater from flooded streets.
Coastal flooding is no longer a subject for debate, but a phenomenon that municipalities are seeking the financial resources to confront. Many sections of our own coast are beginning to face the same reality.
South Carolina has intimate knowledge about how recent and ever-increasing rains wreak havoc on farms, homeowners and businesses, not to mention interstate highways, dams, and state roads. NOAA urges readiness in facing a problem not of the future - but of today.
Since 1997, Miami Beach has had a storm water management master plan, currently funded at $400 million, to cover much needed capital improvements. They don’t know precisely how much is required or when, but they can witness it happening now. They are performing tidal data analysis, compiling citizen complaints, and weighing the implications of tidal flooding like the drone video of the 2015 King Tide shown on Ed Piatrowski’s Facebook page.
No local politicians, however, are confident they can handle this problem by themselves. Unless state and federal resources are brought to bear, homeowners and municipalities will be overwhelmed by “sunny day” flooding, just as they were by torrential rains last October.
Whatever the cause, rising seas and the financial well-being of coastal cities are incompatible. If local politicians awake to the problem, they can begin to address solutions that might postpone our submergence. For example, they can begin investigating sources of revenue to come to the aid of coastal municipalities; they can apply pressure to Coastal Carolina University to study potential problems and solutions; they can adopt best practices from other jurisdictions; they can put the state government on notice that it will be required to help; and they can formulate a regional plan to sustain homes and businesses and tourism.
Forethought beats no thought 10 times out of 10.
If we don’t act quickly, we can look forward one day soon to writing large checks to cover up our procrastination. “Only” 97 percent of climate scientists believe climate change is man-made - but 100 percent of people who take the time and trouble to stay informed are aware that our grace period is growing short.
The writer lives in Pawleys Island.