A very funny – and at the same time tragic – thing happened to me when I watched Al Gore’s new documentary about global warming, “An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power.”
It was a rainy day, and I had tickets for a private screening of the documentary in Miami Beach for journalists, some of whom – including me – were scheduled to interview Gore two days later.
During the movie, I couldn’t help chuckling when I saw Gore on-screen wading in rain boots through the water on a flooded Miami Beach street, and saying that Miami is the No. 1 city in the world for assets at risk due to sea level rise. It was easy to recognize the location: It was only a few blocks from the movie theater where I was sitting.
But what made it all even more surreal was that when the movie ended, the entire area was flooded and nobody could get out of the building. Alton Road, the South Beach street in front of the theater complex, looked almost like a Venetian canal. The water was knee-high, with slow-moving cars causing waves.
It took me more than an hour to get out of the parking lot, and another hour to get out of South Beach. It was mayhem: stuck cars waiting to be towed, others trying to drive on higher parts of the road, and drivers honking their horns, losing their tempers and cursing at one another.
The Miami Herald’s front page banner headline Aug. 2 read, “Pumps fail as deluge soaks South Florida.” It turned out that the Miami Beach stormwater pumps had failed to work because of a power outage caused by the storm.
When I interviewed Gore – and asked him jokingly whether he had arranged the documentary’s screening to coincide with the storm – he said that big cities across the world, from Kolkata in India to New York, will be increasingly threatened by rising sea levels.
Discussing the impact of President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord, Gore sounded optimistic. He said the day after Trump’s
announcement, “the entire rest of the world ramped up their commitments as if to say, ‘We’ll show you, Mr. Trump.’ “
He added that since then, states such as California, New York and Washington, along with several U.S. cities, have made commitments to comply with the goals of the Paris Accords, “so it looks like the U.S. will meet our commitments in spite of Donald Trump.”
In his new book, “Truth to Power,” the Nobel Prize winner projects that the sea level in South Florida will rise by half a foot by 2030, two feet by 2060 and “up to seven feet or more” by 2100.
Most scientists I’ve asked about the future of Miami Beach – full disclosure: I live in a beachfront apartment in Miami Beach – tell me that this city won’t disappear under the water, nor will it become another Venice.
What’s going to happen, unless the world succeeds in fighting man-made global warming, is that Miamians – as well as New Yorkers and residents of coastal cities everywhere – will have to pay much more in taxes to buy water pumps and other technologies that will be needed to lessen the impact of rising seas.
That will be a huge drain on the economy of rich countries, and an existential threat for poverty-ridden ones. According to a 2014 U.S. Defense Department statement, “climate change will likely lead to food and water shortages, pandemic disease, disputes over refugees” and “natural disasters in regions across the globe.”
Gore’s movie may be too Gore-centric – the book is much more informative – but the former vice president is right about the threat of climate change. I saw a preview of Gore’s dire sea-rise forecasts minutes after watching his documentary, and the scene wasn’t pretty.
Andres Oppenheimer is a Latin America correspondent for the Miami Herald. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.