Wanless, says Vlaswinkel, is still the only one in the academic world who has been paying close attention to the area. "I don't know why there's not more attention to the southwest coast of Florida," says Vlaswinkel, adding that it's one of the few places where dramatic changes in the coastline can be witnessed in the course of a human lifetime. "I guess because there are no houses that are disappearing into the ocean; it's very remote. It's just the animals that have to deal."
Wanless is more bleak. "We've created a monster that's creeping up on us," he says. He cites other signs: In Oleta State Park red mangroves are growing in areas that used to be black mangrove habitat (red mangroves grow in deeper depths of water). Beaches are eroding faster than municipalities can replenish them an effort that's an environmental disaster in itself, as low-quality imported sand clouds the water and prevents sunlight from reaching reefs.
"I have to shut up now, don't I?" Wanless asked the group at the courthouse after speaking for a long while. "I'm going too long."
"No, keep scaring us," said Tropical Audubon's Guerra.
Wanless complied, showing a topographical map of Miami. There were few areas that topped five feet in elevation. Then he continued to the next slide, which showed his projections for the South Florida coastline in 2100. "Turkey Point will be a nice island you can visit," he quipped.
For Wanless, what is happening to Florida's lowest-lying habitats is a window for what's to come.
"We've finally realized the ocean is responding to our efforts to put as much CO2 into the atmosphere as we can a giant, silly experiment with the planet," he concludes. "There's no reason to think that it will stabilize."
Last week Miami New Times received the most disturbing global warming data to date. The first warming-inspired hurricane, expected when the season begins in June, should provide just enough extra water to push Miami Seaquarium's crocodiles over the wee walls of their concrete pens and into open water. This comes from Russ Rector, a disgruntled former dolphin handler. When that happens, Rector estimates that they will breed with native alligators to form an indefatigable superspecies: the croc-a-gator.
With no scientific evidence to support the claim whatsoever, New Times has come up with some initial sketches and specs for the mighty croc-a-gator. Using a series of complex algorithms, we have determined that they will be roughly the size of a city garbage truck. Their massive jaws will be equipped with lasers. They will also be bulletproof, giving them just enough of a leg up in the post-global-warming water-world to trump humans. Calvin Godfrey