The Latest Right-Wing Solution For Sea Level Rise: Move Southern Florida

Florida sea level rise

Marlo Lewis, senior fellow of the fossil fuel-funded Competitive Enterprise Institute, argued that moving regions that will be affected by sea level rise is a better idea than taking efforts to mitigate climate change.

During the May 20 episode of NPR's On Point, Lewis was hosted alongside two climate experts to discuss the recent findings that the collapse of a West Antarctic ice sheet "appears unstoppable," and will cause global sea levels to rise of ten feet or higher in the next 200 to 1,000 years. Lewis dismissed taking action to reduce our carbon emissions, saying we could simply adapt to the effects of climate change.

Host Tom Ashbrook challenged him, saying, “So you're saying move New York, move Miami, move Southern Florida, move Boston?” Lewis responded, “Yeah.” His reasoning: “The built environment from the studies I've seen, most building stock turns over in about 50 years. And so the markets adapt to this sort of phenomenon anyway.”  

Lewis' argument doesn't make much economic sense. The flood damages from just five U.S. cities will cost nearly $8 billion per year by 2050, according to a recent study published in Nature Climate Change -- and this is before the 10 feet of sea level rise is expected. According to the study, taking adaptive action in coastal cities at risk could cost up to $50 billion per year globally -- much more expensive than simply preventing the worst damage from happening in the first place.

Lewis is listed as one of the National Journal's energy experts and contributes to FoxNews.comNational Review Online, and Lewis has used his media platform to defend Fox News and the Wall Street Journal for their use of false balance in reporting on climate science.

These readers may be interested to know of Lewis' fossil fuel funding, as Ashbrook disclosed for NPR listeners:

ASHBROOK: What are your motivations here? We've got a lot of fossil fuel money in your organization. Does that mean you're speaking up to defend their interests? And how do we have confidence that you're not?

LEWIS: Well, Tom, I kind of make it a policy not to respond to ad hominem arguments.

ASHBROOK: Ad hominem? I mean I'm just looking at your funders. Isn't that fair?

LEWIS: I think, you know, if you can ever find an instance in which I've changed any position I've ever taken at any time in my professional life because of a contribution to an organization that I've worked for, I'll pay you a thousand dollars. So let's drop that subject.

ASHBROOK: I don't think it's ad hominem, Mr. Lewis, it's just an honest question. A tax on carbon would be tough for ExxonMobil and Texaco.

Listen to the entire 45-minute podcast below.

Image at the top from Flickr user stacyflower with a Creative Commons license.