The Last Beach Boys Cover Band, circa A.D. 2030

Recently I’ve been bitching about the hot weather, which admittedly is selfish, as New York City hasn’t had anything close to what the western and central United States have been experiencing. But I’ve always preferred cool to hot, so even our recent heat wave has left me feeling like wilted lettuce.

By the way, there is no official definition for a “heat wave” among meteorologists, but in the northeastern U.S. it is generally agreed that three consecutive days with high temperature of 90°F or above is a heat wave. In Phoenix they call that “May.”

Anyway, I was in the grocery store a few weeks ago when I noticed that the background music was a song by the Beach Boys, one of their classic odes to young love and Summer days at the beach. As I browsed the shelves my thoughts turned to some of the dire predictions I’ve read about global warming: increasing temperatures making Summer heat deadly and rising sea levels causing coastal flooding. The future doesn’t look good for beaches. It doesn’t look good for Summer, either. Meanwhile, California burns.

Florida, celebrated for its beaches and recreation, is already being affected by rising water temperatures and coastal flooding. The “red tide” of algae blooms kills fish and scares away tourists. The algae can cause respiratory irritation, coughing, sneezing, and watery eyes. Hundreds, even thousands, of dead fish washed up on the beach are not attractive to human visitors, either.

Beach Damage KEL 0919

Coastal flooding used to be a problem during large storms; for some regions it’s becoming almost normal. In Miami Beach and some other coastal cities, “sunny day” flooding can happen whenever there is a higher than normal tide, such as during a new or full moon.

It doesn’t help that the federal government is in retreat. Here’s a webpage on the EPA site titled “Climate Change Impacts on Coastal Areas” archived on January 19, 2017, and the new version, “Climate Change in Coastal Communities.” There are many changes between the older and newer versions, but the one that struck me was near the bottom of the new webpage, under the heading “Why should coastal resource managers focus on adaptation?” One of the bullet points: “The Earth is committed to additional impacts due to past and current greenhouse gas emissions. Adaptation planning is necessary to address these already unavoidable impacts.”

Oh, yeah… It’s entirely the Earth’s doing, and humans played no role. And it’s a done deal; we should just throw in the towel (well, really, it will take an awful lot of towels) and accept “these already unavoidable impacts.” Fine words from an administration whose leader owns waterfront property in Florida!

So, back to me in the supermarket, humming off-key. In another decade—or two or three—most of the Beach Boys classics won’t make sense. Summers will be sweltering and beaches unsafe, where there are still beaches at all.

Enjoy those tunes while you can.


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