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Center for Environmental Studies

Jeff Goodell on “Goodbye Miami: Rising Sea Levels will Turn the Nation’s Urban Fantasy Land into an American Atlantis.”

Jeff Goodell is the author of several books including Big Coal: The Dirty Secret Behind American’s Energy Future and, most recently, How to Cool the Planet: Geoengineering and the Audacious Quest to Fix Earth’s Climate as well as a contributing editor to Rolling Stone. This summer, he wrote a piece for Rolling Stone titled “Goodbye: Miami” which highlighted the immediacy of climate change effects on a major city in denial. Goodell spoke at Log Lunch on November 15, 2013 to talk about the fate of South Florida and the broader concerns of sea level rise.

Goodell first thought of writing this piece after Hurricane Sandy when conversations about climate change were resurrected in America. The public and the government started to think about adaption and the inevitability of certain effects of climate change. He began his research by talking to several members of the Bloomberg administration, and he noticed that Miami kept coming up as a topic related to this issue. He learned that half of South Florida is three feet above sea level and questioned what would happen when sea level rises three feet as it is conservatively projected to do in the end of the century.

Furthermore, South Florida is built on limestone that prevents the building of walls because the water will eventually penetrate. Despite this inevitability of rising sea levels, $40 billion of real estate has already been invested to property by the water. According to Goodell, these developers are in denial, and he is waiting for the real estate market to react once reality hits. However, seal level rise is a “slow motion disaster,” and we are already spending millions of dollars replenishing our beaches. When will it no longer be cost effective? What happens when the large tourism draw to Miami—the beaches—are no longer there?

Goodell believes it is a matter of time before the general public understands the message about what is going to happen economically to this area and also begin to question our food supply. He called it a bleak and dramatic story, but an important means to think about the time scales of cities. There is no other way around it.

To read Jeff Goodell’s “Goodbye, Miami” in Rolling Stone, click here:

http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/why-the-city-of-miami-is-doomed-to-drown-20130620

To learn more about Jeff Goodell and his books, look at his website here:

http://jeff-goodell.com/

By Helen Song ’14

Betsy Kolbert (left) and Jeff Goodell (right)

Betsy Kolbert (left) and Jeff Goodell (right)