It's Deeply Unserious to Suggest Global Warming Caused the Miami Condo Collapse
(AP Foto/Mark Humphrey)
It's Deeply Unserious to Suggest Global Warming Caused the Miami Condo Collapse
(AP Foto/Mark Humphrey)
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Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm late last month “suggested it is possible climate change led to the partial condominium collapse in Miami, FL,” adding that “we don’t know fully” if it did or not, “but we do know that the seas are rising.”

Yes, the seas are rising, as they have been for many centuries; the issue is whether that had anything to do with the building collapse. Some simple arithmetic is useful in this context: Sea levels have been rising by about 3.3 millimeters per year since the satellite altimeter measurement record began in 1992.

Suppose for the moment that amount of sea level rise extends back to 1981, the year that the condominium building was constructed, and that all of the rising sea level is the result of greenhouse gas emissions. (The latter assumption is deeply dubious; the latest research in the peer-reviewed literature suggests that mankind is responsible for about half a degree of the global temperature increase of about 1.5-1.7 degrees C of global warming observed since 1850.)

That would total 132 mm, or a bit more than five inches. One engineer with a 50-year career in Miami argued that “There should be no issues with the foundation, period, because we design here for harsh and corrosive conditions, high winds and storm surge.” Accordingly, it is likely that the building was constructed at a height sufficient to prevent five inches of water from causing major damage. Perhaps that will turn out not to be correct. But we have some substantial preliminary evidence that climate change — rapidly becoming the politically-approved cause of every malady afflicting mankind — had nothing to do with this tragedy.

Research at Florida International University reports that in Miami Beach, subsidence at a rate of 1–3 mm per year occurred at the building site during the 1990s. Subsidence is not climate change. In 2018, an inspection performed by the engineering firm Morabito Consultants noted a “major error” in the building’s design, and structural issues in need of repair: The waterproofing for the entrance drive, pool deck and planter did not drain properly. The report goes on for nine pages describing water infiltration issues; and another report from last October notes that deterioration and corrosion were so bad that workers were unable to perform repairs amid concerns they “could affect the stability of the remaining adjacent concrete constructions." The Miami Herald reported on June 26 the preliminary hypotheses viewed as most likely by six structural engineers; not one of those hypotheses has anything to do with rising sea levels, whether anthropogenic or natural.

At a minimum, therefore, it is very premature even to cite “climate change” as a hypothesis. Granholm’s hedged assertion about the role that climate change might have played in the building collapse was revealed as the political nostrum that it is when she continued on to say that “Lake Michigan, where I’m from, you know, we’ve seen the loss of beaches because the waters are rising, so, you know, this is a phenomenon that will continue.” Consider the data reported by the Army Corps of Engineers for 1918-2021 on water levels in Lake

Michigan-Huron. Beginning, say, with 1950 — the earliest year that increasing atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases could have had a possible effect — the water level in Lake Michigan-Huron rose above and then fell below the long-term average through 1960. Relative to that long-term average, the water level rose and then fell through 1965, then rose through 1973, fell through 1977, rose through 1987, fell sharply through 2013, and then increased through 2020, with a decline thus far in 2021.

So it is very far from obvious that this phenomenon “will continue,” and the casual attribution of the building collapse, water levels in the Great Lakes, ad infinitum, to “climate change” is inconsistent with the evidence, and deeply unserious. More fundamentally, it is propaganda: Because there is no way to “prove” that “climate change” did not cause or contribute to the tragedy, Granholm has created a myth that many people will believe. Thus has Granholm and the climate “crisis” ideological movement proven themselves willing to use such human tragedies — many people were killed and many more are missing — to further their political goals. The mantra of the Obama administration was “Never let a crisis go to waste.” The apparent stance of the Biden administration is “Never let a tragedy go to waste.” Have these people no sense of decency whatsoever?


Benjamin Zycher is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. 

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