Climate Change and our Disappearing Beaches


The August 25th New York Times has a long article about the real and likely collapse and loss of Florida beaches and the August 24th NBC National Nightly news reported on the same issue. I have to say that after I watched the news segment and as I looked at my son whose future continues to look less and less bright with each new “piece of bad news” about the current and coming impacts of climate change, tears of anger and sadness started streaming down my cheeks. The absurdity, to me, of some of the points being raised by these serious media outlets and the lack of real acknowledgement and outcry over the role that sea level rise as a result of climate change has directly on this issue, hit me hard.

Most days I am optimistic and hopeful that the challenges that confront us because of climate change can be tackled in a positive and even transformative way. But some days I just want to scream in frustration. Florida has a high point of 345 feet above sea level but an average elevation of 6 feet. According to research by Climate Central, “2.4 million Floridians are at risk of flooding from even a moderate hurricane-driven storm surge.” Early reviews of the findings of the 5th report of the United Nations Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which will be officially released in September 2013, confirm forcefully once again that human caused global warming is here to stay and if we don’t take action, we can expect sea level to rise by up to 3 feet by the end of the century. This report, which is produced every 5 years with input from thousands of climate scientists around the world, has addressed sea level rise for the first time in a more direct way in this report. Still, early reports state that the IPCC continues to take too cautious of an approach with its projections, given our current rate of inaction.

I didn’t realize that “sand replenishment” has been underway for many years on Florida beaches and that the source of this replenishment sand has been found primarily just off the shores of the very beaches that need replenishing. Seems to make sense, although naively I had assumed that the beaches would just “replenish” themselves. Regardless, for some counties – including Miami Dade home to Miami Beach and South Beach – these counties are now officially OUT of offshore sand. There is no more sand within easy reach, period, and the current reserve supply of sand is expected to be exhausted by February 2014. You would think this would be a HUGE wake up call that sets off alarm bells nationwide.

Photo credit: Juliet Mciver

The news media reports on sand reserves running dry mention sea level rise and climate change in passing but focus in a larger way on where we will be able to “buy” more sand – be it from neighboring counties, Caribbean countries or maybe we could even use our ingenuity and create sand from recycled glass.

I want to scream!! “Rome is burning” and we have joined Nero as he fiddles. Yes, we need to build up resiliency to our changing climate in Florida and around our country. But at the same time we need to do everything we can to slow down the damages that are coming down the pike. We know that burning fossil fuels is the primary reason for climate change, yet we continue to allow polluters to use our atmosphere as a sewer, free of charge.

As I watched my son loose himself in a video game, I let myself cry for his future which will be so much more complicated because of our inaction today. I know he will remember that I did what I thought I could, but am I doing enough and why aren’t more people joining in. Your thoughts?

Sadly yours,

Climate Mama

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6 Responses to Climate Change and our Disappearing Beaches

  1. Spot on post. In addition to the news reports you mentioned, I just finished reading the latest National Geographic issue on sea level rise (seems my Washington DC suburb could someday soon be beachfront property). Keep up the good work — hopefully the decision-makers will hear us soon — just like in “Horton Hears a Who!” (you knew I had to throw in some Dr. Seuss to brighten your day 🙂

  2. CelloMom says:

    Anger and frustration: I recognise that. But you _are _ doing a lot! you _are_ making a difference. Writing about global warming, we sometimes feel like we’re shouting into empty space. We feel lonely. But it’s crucial that we keep writing, and talking, and leading. That grows the circle of people who are convinced of the reality of climate change. There are many such circles, all growing, albeit slowly. One day, those circles will touch, and overlap. The scales will tip. When the circles merge together, there is no space left for climate change denial. Action will follow.
    So keep at it. Because your words are inspiring.

    • Harriet says:

      Thank you….And back at you for all you do… I do so agree that the circle of people who “get it” is growing, i am frustrated at times though that it isn’t yet growing exponentially faster….But I am optimistic too that the circles will touch…But sometimes the stark “reality” of what we face is overpowering and crying helps!

  3. Mona says:

    facebook.comWhen you see a news report that diminishes the role of climate in major news stories, please let us know at
    or @climaterr on Twitter, with the link to the news item, so we can all respond to the reporters and editors and help express the urgency of this issue. Contacting journalists is effective, since they’re the ones who communicate to millions of people, and polite notes often work. Please join the Facebook group and/or follow the Twitter account. Thanks!

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