Toward the end of Mitt Romney's speech at the Republican National Convention in Tampa last month, the newly crowned candidate displayed in a single sentence his talent for sarcasm. "President Obama promised to slow the rise of the oceans and heal the planet," he said, then followed with a smirk that amounted to a giant middle finger to science and reason.
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The conservative crowd chortled in delight, completely ignoring the fact that they were sitting in a state vulnerable to rising sea levels and climate change. Romney's arrogance seems all the more ludicrous following the release of a new study showing that sea ice in the Arctic melted to the lowest level ever recorded.
According to the study, Arctic sea ice covered on average about 8 million square kilometers back in the 1970s. But about halfway through this month, arctic sea ice coverage was a mere 3.45 million square kilometers.
Shocking, though it gets worse.
A different study, set to be published in Geophysical Research Letters, concluded that springtime snow in the Arctic is melting even faster than the sea ice. One of the Canadian researchers involved with the study explained to NPR, "When you remove the snow cover from the land surface... you expose the bare land or tundra underneath, and that absorbs more solar energy." And as all those rays of sunshine are absorbed by tundra, it seems natural that permafrost will melt faster.
Sure, Canadian researchers and Arctic ice and snow melts seem like far-off problems that have little bearing on life in Fort Loddy Doddy. But the fact is that even a slight rise in sea levels could permanently submerge large swathes of Broward County, especially areas west of Dixie Highway.
These two studies are just the most recent examples of climate flux to come to light after Romney wrote off rising sea levels as a liberal fantasy. Perhaps the most disturbing climate-related revelation of the past few weeks is that Greenland's famed ice sheet melted faster and more intensely this summer than anyone expected.
Fred Bloetscher, an engineering professor at Florida Atlantic University, previously explained to The Pulp that there's no doubt "Greenland will affect us" by causing a rise in sea levels.
Last year, Bloetscher and colleagues published a paper that showed how higher sea levels will cause widespread septic tank malfunctions and flooding throughout Broward. The county is one of the most progressive in the state in trying to mitigate these problems, but resistance from Tea Partiers and like-minded haters of evidence-based arguments persist.
One would think Romney would take issue with the long-term costs of rising sea levels and climate change. Some estimates suggest that coping with global warming's effects in South Florida will cost $1 billion in the next 70 to 100 years. But, for now at least, it's far easier for Mittens to mock than discuss facts.