Climate change and rising sea levels are very real threats, but there's no need to be hyperbolic about it. "Hey, large portions of highly populated land could go completely under water in the next few centuries," seems alarming enough to us.
Yet, while speaking at a new conference during the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in Paris yesterday, President Barack Obama made an odd claim about Miami: There there's fish swimming in our streets.
"You go down to Miami, and when it's flooding at high tide on a sunny day and fish are swimming through the middle of the streets, you know, there's a cost to that," said the president.
Except, um, has anyone here actually seen fish swimming through the streets at high tide?
Sure, there was the time that a shark wound up on the Metromover, but fish in streets? The Miami Herald certainly says it hasn't heard anything of the sort. There have been some isolated reports of fish swimming in streets during high tide in Broward County. A few months ago there was news of a man catching a fish in a middle of a flooded Tampa street with his bare hands. But not in Miami. Not yet anyway.
Oddly, Obama's claim seems to come directly from his fellow Nobel Peace Prize winner Al Gore.
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"I was in Miami a few weeks ago," said Gore during the New York Times' DealBook conference earlier this month. "And on a sunny day, fish from the ocean were swimming in some of the streets."
Of course, sea-level rise is believed to be a very serious problem for Miami. Scientists of all stripes regularly remind us we'll be under water someday. High tides can bring traffic on Miami Beach to a standstill as water floods the streets. Architectural features of the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens are now sinking into the water.
There's enough dire evidence to point to without making fishy claims. I mean, how am I supposed to tell my racist uncle to check his facts before he posts conspiracy articles on Facebook when we've got the president talking about fish swimming down Collins Avenue?
Then again, claiming fish are swimming in the streets of Miami pales in comparison to politicians who deny climate change is happening at all.