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There’s another curve we must flatten: the relentlessly rising curve of sea-level rise | Opinion

Jeff Dorian
·3 mins read

My daughter is 29. Seventeen years ago we snorkeled the Florida Keys’ spectacular fish-filled reefs. Her prudent fearlessness, even when faced with an ominous barracuda, filled me with quiet pride.

I wouldn’t repeat the trip today, knowing that the reefs are dying. I don’t want to see it. The recent sickening fish kills in Biscayne Bay remind me of what we are losing. The smell at the shoreline condos must be even more sickening. Residents must demand something to be done. That will be a good start.

Those of us who live and work near the water are holding our breath this time of year. Fall’s king tides are coming soon, flooding homes, businesses and sunny streets. Last fall’s king tides were the worst yet.

Hurricane season’s peak is coming, too. The cost of flood insurance is rising along with sea levels, which are predicted to rise a foot or more by 2040.

Yet we all want to live close to the water. I do. It’s just so beautiful and calming. What are we gonna do?

What we don’t want to do is bury our heads in the sand the way former Gov. Rick Scott did. Sen. Marco Rubio has acknowledged the urgency to protect our economy from chronic flooding, euphemistically called “nuisance flooding.” Loss of business, corrosion to your car’s fuel and brake components, floor and drywall replacement, and plumbing and septic-tank backups are just the beginning.

What we have to do is flatten the curve of sea-level rise, which began more than 50 years ago. As seas get warmer, they expand. Add melting glaciers, and we are getting a significant rise in sea levels.

Even if our greenhouse-gas emissions are flattened today, the seas will continue to rise, very gradually flattening. It’s known as baked-in sea-level rise. Eventually, the curve can flatten, but not until well after 2100.

The best-case scenario for the decades ahead is for a rise of 2 to 3 feet. Imagine what a nuisance that will be. South Florida can’t afford any more delays in taking action. To mitigate sea-level rise, the global emissions curve must be reversed. Former Florida Sen. Bill Nelson knew this, but was voted out of office.

We need national and international policies to accomplish this. It’s great to reduce our carbon footprints, it’s a gateway to action and learning effective ways to scale up advocacy for limiting emissions.

You can make a profound difference on big issues with your voice as a citizen. You probably haven’t because you’re skeptical about politics, especially national politics. If you find an organization committed to forcing change, you can make a profound difference.

I found that organization three years ago. Citizens’ Climate Lobby advocates for carbon fee and dividend legislation. The Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act, HR 763, a bill introduced by Florida U.S. Rep Ted Deutch, a Democrat, and Republican Rep. Francis Rooney is our favorite.

The bill proposes a reduction of greenhouse-gas pollution with a fee on fossil fuels. That, in turn, would spur innovation and trigger investment in cleaner and more efficient energy. All the money collected from the fee would be distributed in equal shares every month to all U.S. families to compensate for increases in electricity and fuel prices.

It would create jobs and reduce illness.The government would not keep any of the money from the fee. This bill would apply tariffs and rebates on international trade to use America’s economic power to influence our trading partners to also price fossil fuels accordingly.

Get out and vote for politicians who want this bill to become law.

Jeff Dorian is president of the Broward Chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby.

“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.