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Guest Voz: For some, climate change already means adapting or saying goodbye

By Nicole Hernández Hammer

As the changing climate continues to transform the American landscape we are beginning to realize the many ways in which our day-to-day lives and the lives of future generations will be different because of climate change.

A new Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) report looks at what tidal flooding will look like in the next 35 years. The impacts on my hometown of Miami will be very significant. Tidal flooding events will go from a few per year to well over 200 events per year. This has the potential to make Miami a completely different place to live than it is today.

Part of the work I do involves giving sea-level rise tours of South Florida to reporters, politicians, and other scientists. As important as it is to show people what is at risk, the truth is, I really do not enjoy giving these tours. I dislike pointing out areas that now regularly flood, and will be underwater in my lifetime. To me, it’s not just any place — it’s my home.

On these tours, I drive by the beaches were I hung out as teenager, my family’s favorite Cuban restaurant, the church where I was married and the building where I was sworn in as a citizen and promised my allegiance to this country. They matter to me because they are a part of who I am and I am saddened and angry that they will be lost.

For me, these tours have become a kind of long goodbye. I know that for many of these places we can’t stop the impacts but I have hope that maybe we can find ways to adapt to them. Because of my work, I face these issues on a more frequent and personal level than most, but this will also change. It will soon be a reality for us all in one way or another.

In fact, some of my colleagues are writing up their “climate change bucket lists.” These are spots that we know are very vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and may not be around by the next turn of the century. I keep a copy of my list on my desk at home, it is my motivation to keep doing the work I do.

It gives me hope that maybe we can still prevent the worst.

Another Union of Concerned Scientists report, released this past spring, lists National landmark sites that are especially at risk to the impacts of climate change. This includes some locations I remember seeing as a child and others I want to see and share with my family.

At the top of my “to-see” list are:

Mesa Verde National Park

Cesar Chavez National Monument

Harriet Tubman National Monument

Find UCS’s full list here. Find ways that we can help reduce the impacts of climate change here.

What’s on your climate change bucket list?

Nicole Hernández Hammer is a sea level rise researcher living and working in Southeast Florida. She is a consultant for the Union of Concerned Scientists and Moms Clean Air Force.

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