THE BLOG
05/24/2016 06:39 pm ET Updated May 25, 2017

Miami Heat

In Miami, the American city currently most vulnerable to climate change, a local university has supplanted skeptical politicians in confronting the environmental challenge.

The University of Miami launched a coordinated research effort emulated in scope by few, if any, educational institutions. The objective--to explore every facet of the existential climate change threat to South Florida and beyond. It could not come at a more fitting time. Consider that Florida's governor and some other of the state's leading politicians can't bring themselves to acknowledge the true nature of the problem. The climate-related rising sea levels that are already swamping Miami Beach streets at unusually high tides are evidently not enough of a red flag.

For its ambitious full court press in behalf of the city (and society), the University enlisted all of its 11 schools and colleges to produce a multi-disciplinary report. The focus was on determining sustainable ways to mitigate and/or adapt to the rising tides that ultimately threaten to inundate most of South Florida.

Unfortunately, Governor Rick Scott has gravitated towards the view that the sea level rise is a result of natural fluctuations that humans are powerless to alter. [Hence, no added regulatory framework and accompanying costs opposed by powerful business interests.]Such detachment on the part of the Florida governor has not deterred the University from linking human activity to the culpability and potential solutions for climate change.

University departments you would not normally associate with a climate crusade contributed to the final report. A professor in the Music School, for example, created the accompanying score for the video introducing the document.

Miami's famed School of Marine and Atmospheric Science worked on identifying types of corals most resistant to ocean acidification stemming from carbon pollution. Oceanic sediments were analyzed with the intent of uncovering clues to future global warming.

Research in the University's College of Arts and Sciences was aimed at reducing our reliance on carbon-polluting fossil fuels through development of lighter streamlined solar panels. Prospective methods for storing solar energy for use in the absence of sunlight were also explored.

A geography professor conducted research on the migration of tropical disease-carrying mosquitoes that pose a health threat as they move further north in tandem with warmer temperatures.

In the College of Engineering, a professor retooled an automobile engine to run on methane recycled from landfills.

The School of Architecture contributed designs for energy-efficient housing. For its part, the University's Center for Ecosystem Science and Policy concentrated on the politics of climate change and how to most effectively communicate the reality of this environmental threat.

The University of Miami's comprehensive exercise provides a template for environmental protection. Should elected officials fail to lead, why not have academia step into the breach and through well-publicized research, embarrass dawdling politicians to get off their duff?
Hopefully, that is just what will happen as a consequence of the University of Miami's report.