Recommended reading for climate change deniers

     In this April 21, 2014 photo, people walk along one of the beaches in Key Biscayne, Fla. While there is a wide open beach now, many officials fear that in years to come, rising sea levels may destroy the open area. (J. Pat Carter/AP Photo)

    In this April 21, 2014 photo, people walk along one of the beaches in Key Biscayne, Fla. While there is a wide open beach now, many officials fear that in years to come, rising sea levels may destroy the open area. (J. Pat Carter/AP Photo)

    Kiddie table debater George Pataki has shelved his presidential bid, thus triggering a mad Republican scramble for his voter. But seriously, folks, the ex-governor’s long-anticipated exit is important, in one particular respect:

    He was the sole remaining Republican who openly acknowledged that human-induced climate change is actually real.

    How shameful it is that a major political party is in cahoots with the loons and trolls and fossil fuel interests; and that, in fact, this is the only major party in the western world that advertises denialism as policy. There’s no point in replaying all the empirical scientific evidence – besides, I’m on the move today, and don’t have the time – so I’ll merely suggest some rcommended reading.

    Those of you who live in the real world will read this piece and knowingly nod your heads. Those of you who are AWOL from reality will simply scoff. I have no illusions that anyone’s mind will be changed, but so what. Great journalism deserves to be read.

    “The Siege of Miami,” an article in the year-end issue of The New Yorker, authored by the estimable Elizabeth Kolbert, details the reality of contemporary life in that low-lying city. If science can’t sway the Republican denialists, perhaps her street-level details can make a dent in closed minds. Kolbert toured the city with Hal Wanless, a geological scientist:

    It was a hot, breathless day, with a brilliant blue sky….Water gushed down the road and into an underground garage. We stopped in front of a four-story apartment building, which was surrounded by a groomed lawn. Water seemed to be bubbling out of the turf….As (Wanless) stepped out of the car, a woman rushed over. She asked if he worked for the city. He said he did not, an answer that seemed to disappoint but not deter her. She gestured at a palm tree that was sticking out of the drowned grass. “Look at our yard, at the landscaping,” she said. “That palm tree was super-expensive.” She went on, “It’s crazy—this is saltwater.”

    Yes, folks, the ocean is seeping to the land’s surface.

    We got back into the car. Driving with one hand, Wanless shot pictures out the window with the other. “Look at that,” he said. “Oh, my gosh!” We’d come to a neighborhood of multimillion-dollar homes where the water was creeping under the security gates and up the driveways. Porsches and Mercedeses sat flooded up to their chassis.

    This is everyday stuff in Miami now, thanks to the rising sea levels. Here’s what happened when a street was flooded with seawater “at high tide”:

    (A)n elderly woman leaning on a walker rounded the corner. She looked at the lake the street had become and wailed, “What am I supposed to do?” The men in (a city) pickup truck agreed to take her home. They folded up her walker and hoisted her into the cab.

    OK, one more:

    “I live opposite a park,” Philip Stoddard, the mayor of South Miami – also a city in its own right – told me. “And there’s a low area in it that fills up when it rains. I was out there this morning walking my dog, and I saw fish in it. Where the heck did the fish come from? They came from underground. We have fish that travel underground!”

    Contrast these everyday realities with the ideological blindness of the Republican candidates. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio – whose job it is to represent Miami, for Pete’s sake – declares “that climate is changing because there’s never been a moment where the climate is not changing,” and even if it is changing today for whatever reason, there’s nothing we can do about it. And the governor of Florida, Republican Rick Scott, has infamously ordered state workers not to utter the term climate change.

    There are many fools in this world of ours – like the hedge-fund billionaire, in Kolbert’s article, who just bought a condo in a new Miami Beach building that is projected to be “accessible only by boat” thanks to rising seawater – but we can ill afford having such fools in public life, most notably in the White House.

    Rubio and his rivals should also read this piece. As if.

    Follow me on Twitter, @dickpolman1, and on Facebook.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.