Peter Dykstra: With Ian, treat climate like an 'active shooter'

And let’s treat climate deniers as accomplices

You’ll never guess which U.S. metro area led the nation in the biggest increase in average home sale price from last year to this year.


It was Tampa-St. Petersburg, pride of the Sunshine state. TSP supplanted the longtime leader, the even sunnier Phoenix, in Arizona.

Miami-Dade rose to second on the list, and perennially-high-finisher Las Vegas was not far behind.

So let’s review: the hottest real estate market in the country just dodged a hurricane bullet, as Ian closely followed the destructive path of 2004’s Hurricane Charley, straight up the gullet of a smaller estuary at Punta Gorda and Port Charlotte, plowing over Fort Myers and across the state.

Miami, another hot real-state market, also missed the bullet. The last time the area was hit was in1992, with category-5 Hurricane Andrew, which subsequently triggered a crisis, as private insurers fled the Florida marketplace upon seeing Andrew’s then-unheard-of property damage toll of $40 billion.

Phoenix, the previous king of realty heat, is breaking its own records for thermal heat; and Las Vegas, a principal realty rival for Phoenix, also competes with the former for disappearing Colorado River water. The mighty river’s dwindling water supply may soon bring crisis to both cities, Southern California and a good slice of the U.S. food production.

We’re staring at an American mystery: We’re clamoring to live in our own future Atlantis, or in our own parched, broiling desert.

The strange phenomenon happens in not-so-hot markets, too: Take Fort Myers and Cape Coral, which suffered far worse from Hurricane Ian. Their Lee County is part of a relentless push toward living on the imperiled coast. In the 1950 census, Lee County had 23,211 citizens. Now, it is home to 787,976 people – meaning there are 34 times as many people in harm’s way than there were in 1950.

Florida’s lucky ones

Tampa Bay is one of the hottest real state markets in the country despite climate risks.

Credit: jharris407/Pixabay

One more thing about the good people of Tampa Bay: they didn’t just dodge a bullet when Hurricane Ian fooled forecasters and made landfall to the south, they dodged another hurricane bullet. The area is running a 101-year lucky streak, with the last direct hit coming in 1921.The bay is a large, south-facing estuary. A bullseye shot from a major hurricane would guarantee massive wind and surge damage.

In the 1920 census, Tampa’s Pinellas and Hillsborough counties had a combined population of 88,257. Today, they’re at 2,434,809 –this means that a century later, there are more than 27 times as many people, and a corresponding number of schools, hospitals, Burger Kings and more. All on the same amount of land, with the same amount of shoreline, at the same precious few feet above sea level.

That’s where sea level is right now, anyway. Within a few decades, we’re told that sea level rise will

have Duval Street in Key West permanently under water. Collins Avenue in Miami Beach and Biscayne Blvd.: gone. Parts of MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, better suited for a Navy Yard. The ground surrounding Cape Canaveral’s historic launch pads, a tidal flat. The check-in desk at Mar-a-Lago will be a wading pool.

Passive accomplices

Yet Florida’s ambitious governor can’t bring himself to mention climate change. Nor can he pack Hurricane Ian onto a chartered jet and ship it up to an affluent resort in the Northeast. Florida’s two U.S. Senators, Marco Rubio and Rick Scott, can’t mention it either.

Scott preceded Ron DeSantis as governor. He reportedly blocked all state employees from mentioning climate change (Scott has denied this). I watched Scott do two extensive one-on-one interviews on Wednesday. He didn’t mention climate or sea level rise, nor did the interviewers call him out on it.

I don’t buy the “too soon” response that the NRA trots out after every mass shooting. Climate change will continue to be the “active shooter” in every storm, heat wave and drought that afflicts us.

We need to treat it that way, and talk about it. Now.

Peter Dykstra is our weekend editor and columnist and can be reached at pdykstra@ehn.org or @pdykstra.

His views do not necessarily represent those of Environmental Health News, The Daily Climate, or publisher Environmental Health Sciences.

‘Tangled mess of inaction’: hundreds of threatened species recovery plans expiring in next six months
www.theguardian.com

‘Tangled mess of inaction’: hundreds of threatened species recovery plans expiring in next six months

Growing list facing extinction and underresourcing of conservation means plans have not been updated
Sunrise in the woods

Get our Good News newsletter

Get the best positive, solutions-oriented stories we've seen on the intersection of our health and environment, FREE every Tuesday in your inbox. Subscribe here today. Keep the change tomorrow.

Energy-rich Qatar faces fast-rising climate risks at home
www.thestar.com

Energy-rich Qatar faces fast-rising climate risks at home

AL RAYYAN, Qatar (AP) — At a suburban park near Doha, the capital city of Qatar, cool air from vents in the ground blasted joggers on a November day t...
Satellite constellations could harm the environment, new watchdog report says
www.scientificamerican.com

Satellite constellations could harm the environment, new watchdog report says

Elon Musk’s Starlink and other satellite sources of light pollution and orbital debris should face an environmental review, the U.S. Government Accountability Office finds
The world’s roots are getting shallower
eos.org

The world’s roots are getting shallower

Root-filled soils are hot spots of nutrient cycling and carbon storage. New research finds that the world has lost millions of cubic meters of rooted soil volume—and we’re on track to lose much more.
Jeddah sees highest ever recorded rain, flooding coastal city
english.alarabiya.net

Jeddah sees highest ever recorded rain, flooding coastal city

The heavy rain that hit Jeddah was the highest ever recorded rainfall in the coastal city, the spokesperson for Saudi Arabia’s National Center for
From our Newsroom
katharine hayhoe

Peter Dykstra: Journalists I’m thankful for

My third annual list of the over-achieving and under-thanked.

sperm count decline shanna swan

A new analysis shows a “crisis” of male reproductive health

Global average sperm count is declining at a quicker pace than previously known, chemical exposure is a suspected culprit.

WATCH: The latest evidence of widespread sperm count decline

WATCH: The latest evidence of widespread sperm count decline

"Pregnant women, and men planning to conceive a pregnancy, have a responsibility to protect the reproductive health of the offspring they are creating."

sperm count decline

Frequently asked questions on the new sperm count decline study

Sperm counts are declining everywhere — the implications are huge.

midterm elections

Peter Dykstra: Environmental takeaways from Election Day

What happened and, perhaps more importantly, what didn’t happen?

coal pennsylvania

Former coal plant near Pittsburgh is poisoning groundwater: Report

Groundwater near the site contains arsenic levels 372 times higher than safety threshold. Coal ash sites across the U.S. are seeing similar contamination.

Stay informed: sign up for The Daily Climate newsletter
Top news on climate impacts, solutions, politics, drivers. Delivered to your inbox week days.