By Sterling Burnett and Anthony Watts
A recent debate in The Nation claimed Miami should either make plans to evacuate from the Florida coast or become the model of adaptation in response to rapidly rising sea levels from climate change and the refugees that will result from it. The story is not just false, it is laughably inept. There is no evidence the United States faces the loss of any major coastal city due to climate change or that climate change has or will create climate refugees.
The Nation published an exchange between by Daniel Aldana Cohen and Samantha Schuyler titled “Should We Start Preparing for the Evacuation of Miami?”
Cohen, an assistant professor of sociology at UC Berkeley, premises his whole argument for abandoning Miami on the claim that, like residents, refugees arriving there will soon have no place to live, with evacuation setting a good example for other cities, writing:
It’s urgent for governments and social movements to start planning for millions of people to land in new places. Prepping Miami’s evacuation is a perfect starting point. Its residents are a multiracial, multinational, and multigenerational assemblage that spans the class spectrum. Tragically, many of them are already climate migrants—like Puerto Ricans displaced by recent hurricanes.
If cities around the country were forced to plan how they’d integrate arriving Miamians into communities flush with public green investment, they’d get a head start on planning for climate migration generally. This would also trigger conversations about zoning for density, enshrining tenant rights, upgrading infrastructure, taxing the rich, building green banks, and battling racism and police violence.
Throughout his article, Cohen references non-scientific concerns like emancipation, the “Great Migration,” environmental injustice, and apartheid. The only thing missing from Cohen’s argument were actual facts and data providing evidence for the need to withdraw from Miami or that climate refugees are or will become a problem.
Addressing Cohen’s climate refugee concerns first, as explored here and here, neither hurricane frequency nor intensity have increased during the period of modern warming. So worsening hurricanes won’t drive people to abandon Miami, or drive people from islands near Miami to the U.S. mainland. As to the climate refugees Cohen believes are already trickling into to Miami, which he believes will soon become a flood, it turns out he is wrong again. Not a single climate refugee has been proven, as discussed at Climate Realism, here, nor is there reason to believe the United States or any other country is about to be swamped by climate refugees, as discussed here and here.
To The Nation’s credit, Cohen’s article has a counterpoint response from Samantha Schuyler, The Nation’s own research director. Unfortunately Schuyler’s response is only slightly less alarmist.
“At some point, if South Florida doesn’t change its approach to navigating climate change, evacuation will be necessary,” Schuyler writes. “But by withdrawing from Miami too soon, we will lose a vibrant city that could have become a training ground for learning how to adapt to the planet’s future.”
As discussed in numerous Climate Realism articles, here and here, for instance, there is no evidence whatsoever seas are rising at an usually rapid rate.
NASA satellite instruments, measuring sea-level since 1993, show global sea level rising at a pace of 1.2 inches per decade. As shown in Climate at a Glance: Sea Level Rise, this is approximately the same pace of sea-level rise that has occurred since at least the mid-1800s. Moreover, there has been little or no acceleration in sea-level rise during recent years.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) maintains a tidal gauge just offshore from Miami on Virginia Key. The NOAA Virginia Key tidal gauge shows sea level at Miami is rising even more slowly than the global average of 1.2 inches per decade, as seen in Figure 1 below. Miami, shows no signs of acceleration in sea level rise.
So, if sea-level rise is slower that the global average, showing no signs of acceleration, what is driving Cohen’s and Schuyler worry that Miami may soon be uninhabitable?
At the core of Cohen’s and, to a lesser extent, Schuyler’s concern about climate change swamping Miami are flawed computer models and actual land subsidence.
Cohen and Schuyler have seemingly joined other pop-culture climate analysts to embrace worst-case scenarios generated by computer climate models about the future. However, in a recent report, some climate scientists are putting the brakes on future warming and say other researchers should avoid suspect climate models. This research confirms what Climate Realism first reported in August 2021, the climate model Representative Concentration Pathway 8.5 (RCP8.5) produces “implausibly hot forecasts of future warming.”
Without the worst-case scenario, sea-level rise predictions are dialed back. The one piece of evidence that Cohen did cite to make his case for rapidly rising seas is the Miami-Dade County Flooding Vulnerability Viewer, a computer mapping tool for Miami showing what the future might look like with sea-level rise. Yet even this evidence fails to support Cohen’s claims. By doing a side-by side comparison, shown in Figure 2 you can see for yourself that Miami isn’t in need of “evacuation” at all.
Miami’s real problem isn’t rising seas as much as land subsidence. Much of Miami was built on reclaimed swamp land, and then built up with modern infrastructure. That extra weight causes a sinking of the land, known as subsidence, allowing seawater to seep in when the surfaces sink to near sea-level. It also means that during strong rainfall events, and hurricane storm surge, areas that have subsided don’t drain as they did years before.
This is clearly covered in the scientific paper Land subsidence contribution to coastal flooding hazard in southeast Florida, published in Proceedings of IAHS in 2020. The paper clearly states:
Preliminary results reveal that subsidence occurs in localized patches (< 0.02 km2) with magnitude of up to 3 mm yr−1, in urban areas built on reclaimed marshland. These results suggest that contribution of local land subsidence affect only small areas along the southeast Florida coast, but in those areas coastal flooding hazard is significantly higher compared to non-subsiding areas.
Subsidence is also driven by freshwater withdrawals from the region’s groundwater reserves to satisfy the Miami metro area’s growing population.
So, just as the Figure 2 comparison shows, “only small areas along the southeast Florida coast” are affected, and Miami itself is hardly in need of evacuation.
Climate activists such as Cohen and his media regurgitators at The Nation are simply making up claims and counting on nobody fact-checking them to point out their lies as has been done here. It is an indictment of the shoddy state of journalism today.
They seem to take personal pleasure in causing as much damage and disruption to settled and successful cities as possible. They have no empathy for the vast number of destroyed lives that will ensue.
How do such people get so much attention and credence these days?
In the past they would have been laughing stocks.
“How do such people get so much attention and credence these days?”
These people have a burning desire to be ‘leaders’, to do leadery things – aka bossing people about.
These people are paid handsomely by certain commercial and political interests
But they still cannot afford property in Florida..
So what to do: Try to scare the present incumbents out, cause a property price crash and move in yourself
In the past, they would have been in stocks.
“Should We Start Preparing for the Evacuation of Miami?”
Ask Al Gore or Obama etc. They have the beachside properties to watch.
But their seaside property isn’t in Florida, so they have nothing to worry about. (/sarc for the sarcasm impaired.)
the only climate refugees in south florida are northerners moving there to avoid cold winter weather up north
Some from California, Berkley in fact, are also wanting to move there
I prefer the milder climate here in the Pacific Northwest. Too many bugs in Florida. I moved to the PNW 21 years ago, and haven’t been bitten by a mosquito since.
Maybe Bill Gates should evacuate his San Diego beach mansion!
He’s not worried about SLV because he buys carbon credits.
Here’s his fixer upper: https://www.zillow.com/homedetails/2808-Ocean-Fron-Del-Mar-CA-92014/16761967_zpid/
He had it completely torn down: https://www.lamag.com/citythinkblog/bill-gates-bachelor-beach-house-is-a-43-million-nightmare-for-del-mar/
The amazing thing is that so many people believe wildly implausible doomsday predictions pushed by the MSM more readily than clear real-world evidence that sea levels are not rising rapidly; the Maldives, Bangladesh, Pacific Ocean islands and so on. In other places, the sea seems to be rising but that’s because of land subsiding due to tectonic movements; Greece and, I believe, Alaska, for example. Why is it taking so long for the repeated predictions of catastrophe to be discredited by reality? Reminds me of Goebbels – “Think of the press as a great keyboard on which the government can play”.
Good news doesn’t sell “news papers”. Only bad news sells. There is no money to be made or taken by the MSM or government in good news.
“so many people believe”
What Marx described as opium of the people.
Coming from an atheist perspective, I find it hard to comprehend people who have a need to believe in something. But I respect their believing it, it’s the foisters like Jehovah’s Witnesses I object to. They have a real knack for knocking on the door at the most annoying times.
My wife, a very intelligent and educated person., always cries out “Oh, you and your numbers!” when we start having a discussion about these kinds of topics..
Other common responses are
It’s just Big Oil lies
I don’t believe in conspiracy theories
This article reminds me of things that Judith Curry has said in the past regarding inundation in a city like Miami, is it appropriate given Miami’s weather history? I believe their building code allows development on land that is 3 feet above mean high tide line. Yet Hurricane storm surges are often 10 feet or more. In other words, Miami is infrastructure and permitting regulations might not be suitable for the weather they already have.
Ther are probably sea walls. Dutch and E Anglian experience shows that, competently managed. land up to 6 feet below mean sea level can be occupied.
The trick is to surround it by dykes to create polders and pump the water up into drains and rivers running on top of the dykes (levees to you, probably).
They used to do it with windmills, but they were too unreliable…
Interestingly, a point within the Netherlands, nearly 7 meters below SL, is in Nieuwerkerk aan den IJssel, population over 22 thousand.
Nawlins (New Orleans) is similarly below sea level, surrounded by dykes and levees and pumps rainfall up and out to the canals and rivers. The system works with regular maintenance…which Nawlins didn’t receive and so flooded during Katrina
New Orleans problems during Katrina was that the dykes were not built properly. The contractor saved money by not building the foundations deep enough. Such corruption is quite common in cities that have been run by Democrats for decades.
which Nawlins didn’t receive
more like their politicians and their owners reallocated the money for make more money projects
Yes and no about the windmills.
Problem was, on the Cambridge Fen at least, the windmills didn’t have the lift capacity
Coal and steam-engines saved the day – the chimneys for same are dotted all over the place
“chimneys for same are dotted all over the place…”
The “moai” of the industrial revolution.
Yeah, I’ve known some pretty big and wide dykes in my time.
Did you stick your finger in a dyke … like the Dutch boy ???
No, I value my fingers.
“They used to do it with windmills, but they were too unreliable…”
I see what you did there.
It would be more accurate to say that they weren’t powerful enough. There was a major lake which they wanted to turn into productive land, but windmills wouldn’t do the job. Once they put steam engines to work, it was easy.
Not true … for decades all of Florida has been prohibited from permitting any new buildings that result in first floor (occupiable) elevations below the 100 year flood elevation plus 1.0 ft. That is typically, depending upon location, around 12-15 ft above mean sea level. In coastal areas there are additional restrictions on building design and occupancy.
Of course old construction is where it is, but throughout coastal Florida it is obvious which buildings are old vs new based upon their first floor elevations.
Somehow this report reminds me of the souvenir t-shirt I bought, while in Miami Beach, for a favorite niece: it shows a great rendering of Miami Beach and the large lettering proclaims MIAMI BITCH. She loved the shirt.
I seem to recall that another doomed by subsidence city is Mexico City which is gradually sinking into what was once Lago de Texcoco. By building on an Aztec artificial island the Spanish and Mexicans were asking for trouble.
Building on reclaimed land is never a good idea
Dubai, Hong Kong International Airport and the recent extension to Rotterdam docks are “all doomed”…?
don’t go there. doomed.
I can sing the “Doom song” if you like.
Who said anything about being doomed?
However their maintenance costs are going to be much higher than people who have built elsewhere.
At least without extensive, continual maintenance, probably so.
You might think twice before flying into LaGuardia airport, then. Entirely built on fill and reinforced with steel. So much steel, in fact, that airplanes have to adjust their compass headings on landing because of the deflection.
Not true at all. Most coastal cities as well as those on major rivers are built at least partially on fill. If the fill material is of the proper types and properly placed and compacted, and if clay soils properly consolidated over time or by applying surcharges, then fill is perfectly fine. Nearly every building in the state of Florida is built on fill, whether in coastal areas or not, in order to have first floor elevations above the flood plain elevation.
In fact, most very old cities going back many hundreds if not thousands of years of occupation are built upon many layers of lower earlier occupation. That includes most of the major cities in Europe and Asia.
Subsidence is mostly the result of long term large scale withdrawals of underground liquids – water or petroleum – that causes the voids underground to be collapsed. That is the issue in the coastal areas of the Los Angeles metro area (Long Beach) where a century plus of oil production has caused subsidence on the order of several tens of feet. Building on unconsolidated clays or organic muck can also result in subsidence.
“However, in a recent report, some climate scientists are putting the brakes on future warming and say other researchers should avoid suspect climate models.”
The large-grid, discrete-layer, step-iterated, parameter-tuned models are ALL suspect. None of them have any diagnostic or predictive authority to compute a climate system response to rising concentrations of non-condensing GHGs.
So as this article correctly points out, just look at the sea level and land subsidence data.
Here in NY we are still losing population, and Florida is gaining. So there’s that.
Hopefully, the shifting population doesn’t cause the country to capsize.
But perhaps it will increase Miami subsidence
Look at the data? No way are we going to let any annoying data get in the way of our emotional scaremongering (/sarc)
I think a far better response would be looking at how much actual land area is in Miami-Dade country today vs. say, 20 years ago vs. say, 50 years ago.
I’d bet money there is more.
If true, that kills the “sea level rising” nonsense dead.
I am willing to bet money that there is more because there has been extremely extensive landfilling and land reclamation due to high land values there – much like say, New York or SF.
There has been no large scale filling of bay or coastal submerged lands in Florida since the 1960s, when the practice was effectively banned, 50-60 years ago. Filling wetlands was heavily regulated and mostly banned since the 1980s, 30+ years ago.
99% of the climate doom is spouted by people looking for a better price on oceanfront property.
“So, if sea-level rise is slower that the global average, showing no signs of acceleration, what is driving Cohen’s and Schuyler worry that Miami may soon be uninhabitable?”
Politics, ignorance, laziness, stupidity, indoctrination. You name it! All are on display.
Even based on the graph shown in this article the assertion that the ‘sea level rise is slower than the global average’ is false. The data shows an accelerated recent rise, about 6″ since 1990. Flooding in the fall due to king tides is becoming more extensive and more common around Virginia Key.
Ha! They were fishing in the streets of Miami in the 1920s! The streets of Miami were left to flood during King tides when it was decided way back when, that it would be too expensive to raise them. So the problem was recognized way back when atmospheric CO2 level was around 300 ppm.
And a big part of Miami’s problem is subsidence due to two causes:
I gave you an uptick – the Miami graph definitely shows a change in slope, that I guaged at about 15cm from 2000-2020, which is about 7.5mm/yr, – more than double the world satellite average.
Not that it’s a disaster, but you pointing out the increase in the SL rise/subsidence should not have given anyone reason to down-vote your comment, and the article writer shouldn’t have glossed over the obvious fact on the graph.
Thanks! Rather ironic when the authors say: “Climate activists such as Cohen and his media regurgitators at The Nation are simply making up claims and counting on nobody fact-checking them to point out their lies as has been done here. It is an indictment of the shoddy state of journalism today”: then when I fact check their data I get loads of downvotes.
I gave you an upvote, too, Phil. Same reason as PCmann999. Recent sealevel shows it to be wandering systematically off the trend line, which needs to be explained. Almost all values since ca. 2018-9 (hard to see because no hash marks for years, just decades) are above the high side of the 95% confidence limit for expected variation if no new forcing factor. So the graph does indeed show sea level is rising faster recently than historical trends. That’s what trend lines are for.
Even though land surface temps haven’t risen the last few years, sea level has been. Need to find out why. Can’t just hide it in a decades-long trend line that goes up at the right end. Why, it almost looks like a hockey stick!
The downvotes you got show that the WUWT readership still includes people who move their lips and eat what they pick from their noses while they read, and think the greenhouse effect from “a trace gas” has to be a hoax.
I don’t believe that Miami has a “real problem with subsidence” either. Unlike Manhattan, virtually all the high rise buildings are located on a thin line along the beach or bay front, typically just a single building wide. All of these buildings have deep pile foundations set in shallow bedrock, so the fact that the Miami Beach surface is comprised largely of fill makes no difference. Most of the fill in Miami Beach was composed of sand dredged from Biscayne Bay, not organic soils or clay soils that would consolidate over time.
Miami is not even all that low, especially compared to any other coastal community on the Atlantic or Gulf coast of the USA. Typical Miami ground elevations are in the range of 6-10 ft above sea level – no lower than in New York City.
Miami occasionally has a problem during seasonally high tides combined with onshore winds that can put some of the lowest areas into flood.
At the rate that sea level is currently rising at the Miami tidal gages, of roughly 2 mm per year, or just under 8 inches per century, it would be a thousand years or more before actual inundation would occur in Miami on what is now ground level. 100% of existing development will be long gone and replaced many times over in that 1,000 years, providing plenty of opportunity to do what the Dutch did starting 400 years ago to create what is now much of The Netherlands, i.e., polder building. Or what New Orleans did in the last 100 years of dike building, if people really want to live in exactly the same locations 1,000 years from now that they live in today.
The tidal gauge data presented in the article shows sea level rising recently at much faster than the longterm average of 3mm/yr.
There are no “climate refugees” in Miami or anywhere else in Florida, well, other than the vast numbers of northerners moving SOUTH to get into WARMER weather than they suffer in the winters up north. Puerto Ricans flee PR because the economy and crime and corruption suck there, not because they think they’ll be any safer from hurricanes. In fact the fastest growing immigrant population in the Miami area are the Venezuelans, who have no hurricanes at all (hurricanes travel west or north in the Caribbean Sea, not south to the mainland). They flee the communist government there in Venezuela which has entirely effed up their lives.
Yes. And the Cubans in Florida have fled (and continue) to flee the communist Castro regime. Cuba has beautiful weather (so I’m lead to believe) but what good is that when you have an oppressive goverment?
Already happens. People move around seeking opportunity.
In the 2000s Democrats, leftists is an almost synonymous label, wanted an ownership society so badly they pushed lending money to a lot of people foolishly. Replacing ownership with stakeholdership in the 2020s won’t work any better.
communities flush with public green investment,
There’s the whole reason for the Biden admin’s recent acts of looting the public till, to squander the loot on the purchase of votes among notable intellects such as the above author.
Not everyone is terrified by sea level rise.
This urgency about sea level rise is ridiculous! Even if it was accelerating, even if everything the warmunists predict comes true (up to a foot of SLR in the next half century), why panic? SL has changed a lot during human history (witness archeological sites that are under water now but obviously weren’t when built) but it isn’t much of a challenge to deal with. Not then and not now.
SLR happens so slowly (perhaps a wee bit faster if combined with subsidence) that people easily adapted and moved their habitations and buildings more inland over time. Heck, even the Bible has a verse warning about not building one’s house on shifting sands. Yes, it was part of a parable, but was very much rooted in a very real problem. In other words, if you put down stakes too close to a shoreline (might also have referred to desert sands, which are also unstable) your home might get washed away.
So no, Miami will never have to be evacuated (at least not for SLR) as over time people will continue to move further inland. Ancient peoples also did this very thing when the coastal parts of their cities began to flood. SLR happens slowly enough (even if it ever gets to the predicted rate, which is very unlikely) that coastal cities and towns can easily adapt. A non-crisis for sure!
What known archeological sites are under seawater today? How would we have discovered them? The only “archeological” sites that would sort of fit that category are shipwrecks. But they went down. The sea didn’t rise to cover them. Yes, there is a discipline of marine archeology. But they haven’t found Atlantis yet.
Well there are several such sites:
Off Egypt https://www.thecollector.com/underwater-cities-ancient-egypt/
Off India https://www.inditales.com/underwater-archaeology-sites-india/
Well, I’ll be darned.
The occasional minor high tide flooding is not in Miami. It is localized southern parts of Miami Beach. Miami Beach used to be a swampy barrier island. The southern half was built up using fill dredged from Biscayne Bay. That portion is subsiding. The solution would be to install about 90 check valves on the south MB street drains to the sea, as was recently done for the Los Olas Isles in Fort Lauderdale, which have the same problem for the same reason. Miami has so far not spent the money because there isn’t a big enough problem yet.
If Cohen’s arguments make sense we should also start planning for when rivers start flowing uphill and gravity tries to push us all into space. To date it would seem the flow of people driven by climate desperation is into and not out of Miami.
I wrote a piece on Miami 6 years ago, Miami’s Vice, which made it clear that Miami truly needs to get busy with adaption to the sea. Not because of the slowly rising sea level, but because of today’s sea level. While alarmists’ talk of evacuation is nonsensical, Miami does have a serious problem when stroms and storm surge is taken into account. Read it and see.
Miami mustn’t ignore the sea.
Yep, past time to start building Sea Walls and Lock Access points
Both authors are sociologists. That’s the ultimate qualification.
It looks to me like these pronouncements of doom become more dire and more hyped the more the previous ones fail to occur. When will people start dismissing them?
From what I’ve seen of human behavior, many will always continue to believe them, sadly.
An assistant professor of sociology and a magazine research director. Not exactly outstanding climate science credentials.
When people buy a property, for instance, in Miami, do they get a Surveyors Report pointing out the threat of impending sea level rises?
Do Insurance Companies demand, especially for beachside Mansions (such as Gore) huge payments for the additional risks?
To the left, everything is an excuse their favorite socialist utopian plans onto everyone.
Translating socialist to real world
flush with green investment: Money taken from the productive in so that the socialists can spend it on what they want.
zoning for density: Cram all the people into tiny apartments in high rise buildings so that the rest of the land can be used by the elite for their enjoyment.
tenant rights: Tenants can’t be evicted, even if they decide not to make any rent payments.
upgrading infrastructure: Replace what works, with what sounds good to the socialists.
taxing the rich: Take money from people who work in order to give it to people who feel a sense of entitlement (usually the socialists themselve), Meanwhile ignoring any rich person who supports them.
green banks: Banks that give out loans without any concerns as to whether the borrowers can actually pay back the loan, so long as they borrower is someone the socialists approve of.
battling racism: Jailing anyone who doesn’t agree that all whites are racists and that no minority can be a racist.
battling police violence: Get rid of all police and empty the jails.
Nice phrasebook. At first I didn’t realize that all of those terms were in the same paragraph.
Utopia remains a dream.
I love the two maps. To my untrained eye, each shows exactly the same land area. The only differrence is the deeper shade of blue along parts of the coastline and curious circular blob on the seaward side. I am convinced that someone must be mad if they intended to convince anyone with these diagrams.
I was hoping for more explanation. I don’t understand the point of the deep blue, and my casual inspection of the coastline didn’t reveal any material differences.
According to Sea Level Info, SLR at Key West was 2.19mm/yr from 1910 – 1990, 4.56mm/yr from 1990 – 2022. Nothing available there for Virginia Beach.
A quick scan of coastal property prices makes it obvious that NOBODY BELIEVES THEM.
If any banks thought this was real, it would be hard to get a mortgage.
If insurers thought it was true, it would be hard to get insurance.
If any people thought it was true, there wouldn’t be buyers.
Again, quotes aren’t set apart from the main text. Makes this difficult to read, and unprofessional. Why is this difficult??
Yes, shining the light of truth on these knuckle draggers.