By Fred Grimm, Sun Sentinel columnist
A profound threat to Florida’s future — perhaps the most profound threat — looms 6,400 miles due south.
Aberrant temperatures have spawned miles-long fissures across an ice shelf on the western coast of Antarctica. This past week, scientists with the International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration warned that the shelf is in danger of collapse, removing the crucial barrier keeping a glacier the size of Great Britain from sliding into the sea.
If that happens, the journal Nature warned last week, “the glacier could release an armada of icebergs and begin flowing much faster into the ocean, funneling ice that had been resting on land into the sea, where it would contribute to sea-level rise.”
Ted Scambos, a senior researcher with the collaboration, told reporters: “Thwaites is the widest glacier in the world. It’s doubled its outflow speed within the last 30 years and the glacier in its entirety holds enough water to raise sea level by over 2 feet.”
Two feet. So much for coastal Florida. I’ll miss the tourists.
Sadly, the average elevation in Tallahassee is 138 feet above sea level. Folks there aren’t much worried if the number slips to 136. Still, you’d think that an existential threat like Thwaites might get someone’s attention thereabouts. Didn’t happen. In the DeSantis administration, predictions from nerdy glaciologists cut no ice.
At least, Florida’s governor and legislative leadership have stopped pretending that climate change is a liberal myth, even if they can’t bring themselves to add the modifier “manmade.”
Two years ago, Chris Sprowls, the incoming speaker of the House, broke the taboo himself, “We need to stop being afraid of words like ‘climate change’ and ‘sea level rise.’ Frankly, we do this too often as conservatives.”
Apparently, Ron DeSantis is still afraid. At a Dec. 7 press conference held to announce 76 proposed projects, most designed to stave off the flooding and drainage problems plaguing Florida, he refused to say why our carbon-choked climate has gone whacky. Or how to fix it.
“What I’ve found is when people start talking about things like global warming, they typically use that as a pretext to do a bunch of left-wing things that they would want to do anyways.
“And so we’re not doing any left-wing stuff.”
DeSantis will spend $270 million to ease the early symptoms of Florida’s coming environmental disaster, but he won’t mention the 38 gigatons of carbon dioxide the industrialized world pumps into the atmosphere each year. He’s like a doctor who neglects to advise a lung cancer patient that he’s smoking himself into oblivion.
His proposed water projects will raise sea walls, reengineer drainage systems, install pumping stations and institute other fixes for ever-more-frequent flooding in coastal communities this last decade. He expressed no worries about what else awaits Florida if the industrialized world fails to clean up its act.
The melting Thwaites glacier (and the melting Arctic ice cap) may be existential threats, but the worst effects are just too many election cycles away to worry decision-makers in Tallahassee.
They’re contending with more urgent problems, like their collective horror that schoolchildren (even school employees) might be exposed to critical race theory. Never mind that critical race theory has never been included in our public-school curricula.
Real or not, the very thought of asking schoolchildren to ponder the enduring effects of slavery and segregation inflames the Trump voters coveted by Republican candidates. Denying that CRT is sabotaging the America way of life would be like suggesting — heaven forbid — that Uncle Joe won the 2020 election.
The Florida Legislature outlawed the teaching of race theory last year, but apparently that wasn’t enough to assuage the MAGA masses. DeSantis proposed legislation last week that would allow parents to sue if they suspect their offspring had been defiled by racial enlightenment.
That explains it. What with the menace of CRT, who has time for climate stuff?
Besides, it can’t be surprising that the governor who spurned the advice of the nation’s preeminent epidemiologists in the midst of a pandemic would ignore warnings from the world’s leading climatologists that an environmental disaster is coming. Yeah, but not before the next election.
DeSantis enacted policies contrary to medical science. He bullied local governments and school boards who thought epidemiologists knew more about public health than the governor. By late August, the virus was killing 400 Floridians a day. Last week, the state’s COVID death count had reached a ghastly 62,000, with no plans to beat back the next surge.
But DeSantis has never wavered in his disdain for epidemiology, climatology, sociology. Not in his Florida. None of that left-wing stuff.
“The Invading Sea” is the opinion arm of the Florida Climate Reporting Network, a collaborative of news organizations across the state focusing on the threats posed by the warming climate.