Thursday, August 20, 2015

With climate change: a world without beaches is coming your way ... by gimleteye

Today, the American West is on fire. Tomorrow? Actually I'm talking about "the day after tomorrow", but not exactly in the way of a science fiction movie depicting Manhattan buckling under a sudden tsunami of imagined sea level rise. On my mind is the more gradual loss of beaches around the world.

It's happening, now. Slowly. And apparently, unalterably, given humanity's inability to match political and economic responses to the degree of long-term threat. Unless, of course, one counts "beach renourishment" as an antidote to sea level rise.

Ours is one of the last generations where -- in the first world -- everything is working.

I've been wondering -- imagining, more like it -- how our politics will deal with food prices that will rise, as a result of crop instabilities much more quickly than water at the shoreline. The thought bubbles proceed from there: how many more hundreds of millions will become climate change refuges, as is happening now in conflict-ridden, poor regions of Africa and the Mideast, before our politics catch up? And, if our politics continue to represent mainly large corporate interests, will the needs of people for a safe planet ever trump corporate interests, or, will our politics principally serve to corral consumers around markets and corporations that have more rights than people?

These are big questions that most people evade because they are too hard and too depressing to imagine. So instead, let's substitute a brief discourse in depicting how iconic shorelines will change with sea level rise within just a few generations as predicted by climate scientists.

Because google is a reliable source for billions of images, I tried to search for "a world without beaches". Couldn't find a single image and the reason is simple enough: at least for the time being, a world without any beaches is beyond camera range.

So far, the modelers and planners have focused on anodyne maps that require a few stages of mental imaging. It might be easier to grasp by just looking at our beaches and understand that they will entirely, completely disappear.

Substitute for this, your favorite beach

The nearest neighbor to what the planet's coast lines will look like -- everywhere -- is the forlorn landscape of water managed for hydroelectric projects like the Tennessee River valley. These are beautiful but they are haunting because these are not natural places. They are artificial ones we created. The same will be said about a world without beaches at all.

TVA landscape
The memories created from nature's orphan landscape cannot reveal because these places are shadowed by destruction. The nearest relative are shorelines created by acts of violence in nature, recent as measured by geologic time. This is a Vanuatu coastline in the south Pacific.

Volcanic coastline in South Pacific, Vanuatu
Think of your favorite beach, then close your eyes and imagine the same beach under ten feet of water. Or twenty or thirty. That is the future for the children, and if you don't find something wrong with that there is something wrong with you.

11 comments:

Jeffrey Scott Wilson said...

Well said. I wonder if the Miami Beach super pac "Relentless For Progress" ( Levine/Wolfson ) has this topic in their veiled agenda?

Gimleteye said...

One of the main points of misdirection about "climate change denial" -- I believe there are NO deniers left other than those dredged up to entertain on Fox News -- has to do with long term planning. Major corporations run their business models based on asset depreciation schedules that stretch decades into the future, and these corporations are already beginning to focus on the disruption from climate change (including the fossil fuel supply chain). Entrenched interests will continue to fight to squeeze the last penny from their business models. Investing in Fox (advertisement/marketing expenses), and even greenwashing, will delay the day of reckoning. One does have to wonder, how many more millions of acres of the American West will have to burn and how many more years the drought will continue before there is a pivot in our politics.

Anonymous said...

California is on fire and it is also sinking, as deep aquifers are depleted the land shrinks and settles. That will happen in the Everglades, too allowing for salt water intrusion. Meanwhile, Miami has destroyed its coral reefs for the Port Miami deep dredge, a doomed project that will never be justified. And local governments ride the development frenzy which seems to have an election cycle life only without any regard to the climate change impacts that are already impacting Miami. Bridge repairs, beach erosion, water and sewage retrofits, pumps and lifting of roads and streets costing hundreds of millions are happening now because of climate change. And then the Superstorm will hit and everything will grind to a halt. Are we ready in Miami?

Anonymous said...

Armed and Ready!!!

Anonymous said...

Gimleteye,
This is a false analogy. The processes that govern the flooding of a reservoir are completely different than along an ocean. Sand is deposited through the action of waves and those don't exist on these small lakes. Beaches are not permanent features in space and time. Sea level rise doesn't cause beaches to disappear. They just migrate inland. It is important that we all get our facts right. Otherwise climate change deniers will just claim alarmism and toss legitimate science in with the false stuff.

Of course this is bad for those who own shoreline property especially on barrier islands. The islands will tend to migrate inland. One popular strategy for combating shoreline erosion due to sea level rise is to build sea walls. That WILL destroy a beach leaving behind only rocks. The best example of this is the seawall on Galveston Island.

Prof Dean

cyndi said...

We have bathtub beach up here that is always disappearing. To the south is this humongous area of big houses. they just built themselves a seawall. When we have a bad storm it floods and the people in these big houses are on an island. The wisdom of letting any one build millions of dollars worth of of houses in this place is beyond me.

Alexandria said...

Over development of 20 and 30 story condos is what's destroying the beach period. They should have never been built in the first place.A group of idiots who lived in skyscrapers in N,Y. decided they wanted to live in the same rat-holes in Florida. These monstrosities stop the breezes from doing their job taking sand out and bringing it back in first grade science. The engineers in the early days knew this but the greedy crooked politicians just fired them and brought in yes men who did not give a F&&K about the future, infrastructure, fresh water, beach destruction, and or anything else. They shot sewage on our reefs, built on barrier islands and took the money and kept going up the coast like locusts hopefully karma will get moving before Florida is destroyed.

Anonymous said...

When sandy beaches erode in Florida, isn't more sand jdeposited on the coastline further north based on the gulf stream and major storms?

Gimleteye said...

If "beaches migrate inland", they will migrate onto many people's personal property. What I have observed, though, is that beaches don't migrate. The pace of change is too rapid. Our beaches and wetlands evolved over tens of thousands of years. The sea level rise we are unleashing will occur in the space of a few generations and overtake those natural processes. As climate scientists observe, the scale and speed of C02 build up in the atmosphere has not occurred for a couple of hundred million years. My view is that we owe future generations the same Hippocratic oath; first, do no harm. If we have inalienable rights, we also have responsibilities. We are so, so far from meeting those responsibilities on combating climate change.

Anonymous said...

I Can't Live without my Biatches!!!!

Anonymous said...

The sky is falling! The sky is falling! LOL!