Researcher: Florida Keys could be underwater by 2100

5:06 PM, Jul 28, 2011   |    comments
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MIAMI (NBC) -- Could the Florida Keys be sinking? Actually going under water? A researcher at the University of Miami thinks so.

The sea is rising, but slowly enough so that too few people get alarmed. A slow march upward 5-10 feet, says all the science, that will happen over the next 100 years or so.

"And so we would be utter fools not to attempt to arrest this while we have a fighting chance," said University of Miami climate change researcher John Van Leer.

Van Leer has been studying climate change longer than almost anyone. This new warning from the Natural Resources Defense Council, warning us about south Florida is the same warning he and his colleagues have been raising for decades -- that Florida's magnificence is threatened by climate change:

An increase in diseases like dengue fever already underway, seafood that becomes less plentiful, our valuable coral reefs are already dying at alarming rates, our drinking water supply becomes infused with seawater, we see worsening extreme weather events, and our coastline erodes at a greater and greater pace especially during storms.

All these impacts, to some degree, are already happening in part because of climate change. and van leer says we must reduce greenhouse gas emissions as well as prepare for rising seas.

"Both," Van Leer said. "We have to do both things. I mean, how will you live in a high-rise condo when the feet of the buildings are in seawater?"

Maps of south Florida that show the anticipated rate of a rising see indicate that in 100 years, most of south Florida - including the Keys - is underwater.

Scientists ask what will the next generation say about present day inaction.

"Their reaction would be, 'I can't believe you guys didn't take it seriously when you had the chance'," Van Leer said.

Some folks are listening.

Officials in Miami-Dade are working with surrounding communities to develop a strategy to prepare for rising sea levels. Four counties in south Florida have formed the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact to coordinate policies and research to create a regional action plan.



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