Miami Will Be Screwed by 2050 Unless We Cut All Carbon Emissions ASAP, UN Warns

A new United Nations report warns that much of the world will be screwed by the year 2040 unless we basically reduce carbon emissions to zero. And Miami will likely be destroyed by hurricane storm surge. Happy Monday!

The latest report from the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is, honestly, the sort of thing that should force the world's citizens out into the streets. Per the IPCC — a collection of top climate scientists — the planet has about 12 years left to massively cut carbon emissions to ensure temperatures rise only 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) by 2100. Per the IPCC, humans need to slash carbon output to 45 percent below 2010 levels by 2030 and to straight-up zero by 2050. Otherwise, the world will probably begin seeing massive droughts, floods, and food shortages by 2040.

That benchmark is lower than the one set by the global Paris Agreement, which aimed to prevent the planet from warming by 3 degrees Celsius. As it stands, only a handful of nations are even on track to hit their Paris benchmarks. President Donald Trump has instead pulled the United States out of the Paris accord.

The UN warns that an emissions reduction of the size it suggests has "no documented historic precedent.”
The IPCC warns, however, there is a stark difference between 1.5 and even 2 degrees Celsius of warming. Scientists say that mere 0.5-degree difference would mean saving massive amounts of fresh water in the Mediterranean area, averting the most catastrophic droughts and deadly heat waves, and sparing at least some of the world's coral reefs. (Here's a handy graphic to explain the differences between 1.5 and 2 degrees Celsius of warming.) The IPCC's report drew information from more than 6,000 scientific studies and 132 authors. More than 1,000 scientists reviewed the findings.

Importantly, all is not technically lost — yet. If the world were to cease all carbon-emitting activities tomorrow, the carbon already pumped into the air would still guarantee a few extra decades of warming. But the planet would remain under that 1.5-degree threshold. The obvious problem, of course, is that Earth's developed nations are still burning fossil fuels at obscene rates.

And, of course, Trump has been trying to slash carbon regulations instead of strengthening them. His administration argues that catastrophic global warming is already a near-certainty, so America should just let car companies pump pretty much whatever they want into the air.)

The report lists various scenarios that might occur if the world hit 2 degrees of warming. They include a speculative section warning that sea-level rise would make hurricane storm surge in Miami far worse. If Miami were hit by a major storm in, say, 2040 or 2050, the city would suffer biblical flooding.

"A hurricane with intense rainfall and associated with high storm surges destroys a large part of Miami," one of the study's possible scenarios reads.

Of course, the report effectively confirms something Miamians already know: Without a colossal, worldwide commitment to reduce carbon emissions, Miami faces a combination of chronic, daily flooding and a huge spike in "deadly heat" days. A previous study warned that more than 2.5 million area residents could become "climate refugees" as South Florida becomes unlivable. (The Miami Herald reported earlier today that at least one Miami wealth manager now recommends that the rich move 50 percent of their real-estate portfolios away from vulnerable areas such as South Florida.) It seems time to beg Florida lawmakers to stop approving new power plants and make it easier for residents to get solar panels.
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Jerry Iannelli is a former staff writer for Miami New Times from 2015 to March 2020. He graduated with honors from Temple University. He then earned a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.