For Some, Climate Change Already Means Adapting or Saying Goodbye

December 19, 2014
Nicole Hernández Hammer
Consultant, Union of Concerned Scientists

As the changing climate continues to transform the American landscape, we are beginning to realize the many ways in which our day-to-day lives and those of future generations will be different. A new Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) report projects what tidal flooding will look like in the next 30 years. The impacts on my hometown of Miami will be very significant. Tidal flooding events will go from occasional nuisances to well over 200 events per year. This has the potential to make Miami a completely different place to live than it is today. The video ‘ Tidal Flooding and Sea Level Rise: The Growing Impacts of Global Warming’ illustrates the urgency of adapting to rising tides in our communities.

Part of the work I do involves giving sea level rise tours of South Florida to reporters and politicians, as well as other scientists. As important as it is to show people what is at risk, the truth is, I really do not enjoy giving these tours. I dislike pointing out areas that now regularly flood and will be underwater in my lifetime because to me it’s not just any place, it’s my home. On these tours I drive by the beaches where I hung out as a teenager, my family’s favorite Cuban restaurant, the church where I was married, and the building where I was sworn in as citizen and pledged my allegiance to this country. These places matter to me because they are a part of who I am. I am saddened and angry that they will be lost. For me these tours have become a kind of long goodbye.

Photo credit Joe Raedle, Getty Images North America.

Photo credit Joe Raedle, Getty Images North America.

For many of these places, we can’t stop the impacts that threaten them in the short to medium term. But I have hope that we can find ways for them to adapt. Because of what I do for a living, I face these issues on a more frequent and personal level than most people, but this will also change. Climate change will soon be a reality for us all.

In fact, some of my colleagues are writing up their “climate change bucket lists.” These are spots that we know are very vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and may not be around by the next turn of the century.  I keep a copy of my list on my desk at home. It is my motivation to keep working on climate change issues. It gives me hope that maybe we can still prevent the worst.

The Union of Concerned Scientists’ National Landmarks at Risk report, released this past spring lists sites that are at risk to the impacts of climate change, including some places I remember seeing as a child, and others I want to see and share with my family. At the top of my “to-see” list are:

You can find UCS’s full list here. There’s also a Spanish-language fact sheet on the climate implications for treasures in my home state of Florida here. Find ways that we can help reduce the impacts of climate change here. What’s on your climate change bucket list?

This blog was originally posted at Latina Lista.