What do Manhattan and Miami have in common with ancient Pompeii? They are doomed places where the residents cannot imagine that the good times will ever end.
Superstorm Sandy got our attention — like Mike Tyson walking into the house and punching our dog. And the certainty that more freakish, savage storms will pay a visit has made it tough for global-warming deniers to keep denying. But denial is not as tough to reckon with as obliviousness. Being oblivious to approaching doom is a consistent human trait. We are a hopeful, gullible and greedy species. Most of us imagine we can be the last one out of the burning casino with hundred-dollar bills stuffed in every pocket.
And. . .
On Sunday, the New York Times published a set of dramatic graphics showing how several coastal cities will be affected by rising sea levels that will be one result of global warming. Scientists say if immediate, dramatic measures are taken to reduce emissions, the seas may rise just 5 feet. New York City might be able to cope by erecting barriers, but Miami Beach would disappear. If the world hits just the modest emissions targets that have already been set, but largely ignored, sea level will go up 12 feet. That means all that will be left of Miami is a scattering of islands, while nearly a quarter of New York goes underwater.
But if we continue full speed ahead, drilling, fracking and burning it all up, then the coasts will see a 25-foot rise that swamps all of south Florida; all of Norfolk, Va.; big swaths of New York and Boston; every beach in California and, strangely enough, more than 60% of Sacramento.
Of course, this is all many decades in the future, our legacy to future generations. For now, in between the storms and wildfires, we will remain oblivious. After all, until the end actually came, Pompeii was a pleasant town with a fine mountain view.
Here’s a bet: the good times end in Los Angeles or San Francisco thanks to the less-than-friendly San Andreas Fault before the sea level rises “12 feet” to flood parts of NYC and Miami. I wonder what David Horsey has done to prepare for the inevitable destruction from a killer earthquake. Anything?