Fox Wonders What's Eroding Our Beaches

Source: City of Fort Lauderdale

Fox News reported on the “very unusual problem” of diminishing sand at Florida beaches, terming it an “environmental ... crisis of the future.” However, the network did not mention that phenomenon's connection to sea level rise, a major consequence of climate change.

On Tuesday's edition of Happening Now, correspondent Phil Keating checked in from Miami Beach to relate that some beaches in Florida are “running out of sand.” This, he said, threatens the region's booming tourism industry and indirectly weakens an important buffer against hurricane damage as municipalities are forced to take sand from offshore to replace what has been lost. The segment went on to explain that Broward County, which contains Fort Lauderdale, has considered grinding up glass as a substitute:

To its credit, Fox News explained that erosion is to blame for this sand shortage (rather than, say, aliens). Unfortunately, the network did not mention any of the underlying trends driving such changes, prominent among which is rising sea levels along with coastal development and high foot traffic. As Climate Central reported in 2012, climate change could make matters much worse:

And then there's the growing danger of sea level rise, caused by climate change. “Even 25 years ago, sea level was rising,” [U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) scientist Asbury] Sallenger said in a recent interview, “but not a heck of a lot.” But that's changing as the planet's temperature keeps going up, sea water keeps expanding and ice is flowing faster to the ocean, especially in Greenland and Antarctica. “If sea level rises another foot,” said Duke University beach expert Orrin Pilkey in an interview, “the shoreline in northeastern North Carolina could be pushed back 5 or 6 miles. And all of the projections I've seen suggest it will be more like 3 feet by 2100.”

For decades, Florida has been using the expensive stopgap method of “beach nourishment” or “beach replenishment” (transplanting sand from elsewhere) to forestall disaster. According to a 2005 USGS study, this has been fairly effective, and helped keep the state from being hit as hard as others in the Southeast Atlantic. But as Pilkey told Climate Central, beach nourishment will become much harder “with even a 2-foot [sea-level] rise,” at which point “there will be just too great a rate of loss” to continue building along the beach. Given current sea level forecasts, the sand deficit seems to be a true emergency -- especially with Miami likely to be on the front lines of climate change.

The Environmental Protection Agency estimated that the cost of “replenishing” Florida's beaches after 20 inches of sea level rise by 2100 -- equal to some "moderate" estimates for the state -- would cost anywhere from $1.7 billion to $8.8 billion. Other estimates are more serious, as seen in maps created by Florida scientists for a court case in 2013 illustrating the dramatic effects of a projected four-foot rise for Miami Dade County (which contains Miami Beach) by the end of the century.

Present Day:

Source: Miami Herald

Between 2074 and 2100:

Source: Miami Herald

Not only is Fox News ignoring the impact of sea level rise, but just last week the network falsely claimed that scientists are “laughing” at some of the most dire scenarios.