Editor’s Note: This narrative by Nathaniel Rich is a work of history, addressing the 10-year period from 1979 to 1989: the decisive decade when humankind first came to a broad understanding of the causes and dangers of climate change.
Complementing the text is a series of aerial photographs and videos, all shot over the past year by George Steinmetz. With support from the Pulitzer Center, this two-part article is based on 18 months of reporting and well over a hundred interviews.
It tracks the efforts of a small group of American scientists, activists and politicians to raise the alarm and stave off catastrophe. It will come as a revelation to many readers — an agonizing revelation — to understand how thoroughly they grasped the problem and how close they came to solving it.
In a hurricane-proof lab miles down the Florida Keys, scientists coddle, the way a parent might, tiny pieces of coral from the moment they are spawned until they are just hearty enough to be separated into specimens equipped to survive in the wild.
Then these dark-green fragments are put through misery, plunged into tanks mimicking the hotter, more acidic waters projected to one day overtake the tropical region. Many coral samples will die, but those that endure the hostile testing will be painstakingly transplanted back in the Atlantic.
For generations, marine biologists working around this stunning, 360-mile coral reef made sure their research didn’t disturb the fragile kaleidoscope of marine habitat so critical to the local ecosystem, not to mention a multibillion-dollar tourist economy.
But as global warming rapidly brings the natural wonder to the brink of extermination, scientists are abandoning their hands-off approach in favor of a once-unthinkable strategy: a massive intervention to manipulate the natural balance of the reef.
Florida has an algae problem, and it’s big. This year, an overgrowth in the waters off the state’s southwestern coast is killing wildlife and making some beaches noxious.
The toxic algal bloom, known as a red tide, is not unusual. Red tides appear off the state’s coast almost every year. But this one, still going strong after roughly nine months, is the longest since 2006, when blooms that originated in2004 finally abated after 17 months.
The blooms can poison marine animals like sea turtles and manatees, while waves and ocean spray can carry toxins into the air and cause respiratory problems in people.
They can also hit the local tourism industry hard.
I am pleased to share news of Resiliency Florida’s newest Founding Member, the Florida Precast Concrete Association (FPCA). FPCA was founded in 1957, by a small group of construction leaders and visionaries when the precast/prestressed industry in the United States was less than a decade old. Back then, the FPCA was the first of its kind in the nation. Today it has grown to become part of a national organization, PCI. We are excited about this new partnership and look forward to advancing our common vision of resilient infrastructure.
The last few months have seen a whirlwind of activity as Resiliency Florida has been at the forefront of important conversations taking place all over the state. Top of the list was a recent invitation for members of our board of directors to sit with editors from the Sun Sentinel, the Miami Herald, the Palm Beach Post and WLRN public radio to discuss resilience in all its myriad facets. What was to be a two-hour conversation turned into four. I cannot recall a time when media dedicated itself so thoroughly to understanding an issue and sharing that knowledge with its community. Our local media deserve kudos for this unprecedented collaboration. Make sure to check out their series, The Invading Seas at www.theinvadingsea.com.
It’s official: 2017 was the third-warmest year on record for the globe, trailing 2016 and 2015, according to the 28th annual State of the Climate report. The planet also experienced record-high greenhouse gas concentrations as well as rises in sea level.
The annual checkup for the planet, led by scientists from NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information and published by the Bulletin of the American Meteorology Society, is based on contributions from more than 500 scientists in 65 countries and offers insight on global climate indicators, extreme weather events and other valuable environmental data.
The Invading Sea is a non-partisan source for news, commentary and educational content about climate change and other environmental issues affecting Florida. The site is managed by Florida Atlantic University’s Center for Environmental Studies in the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science. Read more