There seem to be no end to the amount of ignorance being displayed by the general public when it comes to the real risks involved as climate change continues to worsen.
Take, for example, sea level rise, which climate change scientists estimate may rise by anywhere from a foot to forty inches by the year 2100. Indeed, forty inches of sea level rise would be catastrophic, wiping out the living space of some 145 million people, but that’s not all. Even if sea level rise was restricted to the lower estimate, around twelve inches by the year 2100, higher storm surges put some 700 million people at risk, about a tenth of the world’s population.
One might think that such climate change and sea level predictions would be putting people on alert, “Head for the hills!” as it were, and yet public reaction could be best described as counterintuitive. Miami, Florida, for example, maxes out at just forty feet over sea level. Storm surge could easily flood most of the city, and yet people continue to move to Miami, instead of settling down in higher elevations. I can totally understand the draw of a beachfront house or apartment, but what’s the point if the beach ends up behind you?
Just a few years ago, “Climate Change Preparedness” was little more than an abstract idea, but Laura Tam, a climate adaptation expert at the San Francisco-based urban planning think tank SPUR, says “cities are light-years more aware of the threats and challenges of sea level rise than they were just five years ago. You’re seeing many of the densely populated, coastal urban areas taking on major community-wide planning efforts to understand vulnerability and address risks.” It seems, however, that the general public still hasn’t gotten the message, neither of the risks, nor the causes.