Miami stadium sites are “future Atlantis” thanks to climate change, teams to deal with this by ditching plastic cups

As you may have noticed, I’m slightly interested in the massive human-created changes to Earth’s climate that are going to make many major cities uninhabitable soon via increased heat or sea level rise or both, so this CNBC article on sports venues at risk from climate change promised to check all of my boxes:

  • Florida International University climate professor Henry Briceno predicts that the Miami Heat arena will flood with only two feet of sea level rise (expected as soon as 2060), while the Dolphins‘ stadium will flood at a three-foot rise. As for the site of David Beckham’s new Inter Miami stadium, Briceno remarked, “I don’t know if those guys know that they are building in the future Atlantis.”
  • The San Diego Padres‘ stadium flooded in 2017, and the Quad Cities River Bandits stadium was made inaccessible thanks to flooding last year, and while both of those were because of torrential rains and not sea-level rise, more and more severe storms are expected to be a consequence of a warmed planet as well.
  • Disappointingly, the article doesn’t talk much about what will happen to sports teams once the cities they play in are largely uninhabitable as a result of climate change — Phoenix isn’t going to be underwater ever, but it could be too hot to live in as soon as 2050.

And the article then pivots to what sports teams are doing to help combat climate change — including a long set of quotes from Allen Hershkowitz, the staff environmentalist the New York Yankees hired after he helped MLB come up with programs to claim “green” status and then called commissioner Bud Selig “the most influential environmental advocate in the history of sports” — though only one specific initiative is mentioned: The Dolphins are replacing disposable plastic cups with (presumably reusable) aluminum ones. That sounds great, but while plastics are indeed a pollution nightmare, in terms of carbon footprint they’re not all that much better for the planet than alternatives (reusability is more important than what cups are made of). And there’s no mention of what the carbon footprint was of these teams’ repeated building and upgrading of new stadiums, which is kind of a big omission when nearly a quarter of the world’s carbon emissions are related to construction.

The best way to keep sports from drowning themselves, really, would be for teams to play in whatever stadiums they already have and for fans to stay out of their cars and instead stay home and watch on the internet listen on the radio. Or maybe just play fewer games. Somebody ask Hershkowitz about that, maybe?


21 comments on “Miami stadium sites are “future Atlantis” thanks to climate change, teams to deal with this by ditching plastic cups

  1. relating to the closing comment
    “just play fewer games. ” Does the MSL know this? With their expansion plan they will have more games being played then MLB, or NBA and NHL combined. (1000 MSL teams times 20 games)

  2. Not necessarily on topic… but…. is it just possible that the people who calculate the carbon footprint of a single internet user watching (or typing) anything on the internet use the same sort of extreme assumptions and projections that stadium boosters and construction companies do?

    Thanks to professional sports moving decidedly upmarket (and pricing their tickets accordingly) and just generally treating their customers the way communications and credit card companies do, I am not a frequent supporter of their business model any more. But I do wonder about studies that appear to show it is more damaging for the environment for me to watch a game from my own living room than to drive my car to a park and ride and then jump on a diesel stinking bus to cover the journey to the stadium.

    At some point I begin to wonder about things like this… isn’t this a bit like the military procuring more fuel efficient tanks to lessen the environmental impact of war? (Depleted Uranium shell casings being a fixed/sunk cost in the war against environmental destruction, I guess).

    • I don’t think anyone is suggesting that watching streaming video has a higher carbon footprint than driving to a game. But it’s higher than you might think.

      That said, I just spent some time playing with that carbon footprint estimator, and it doesn’t seem to bear much relation to reality — sites with a ton of video get a better rating than those that are virtually all text. So you’re probably right, John, that those numbers need to be taken with a grain of salt for now.

    • Yeah it is hard to take that stuff seriously because there are so many assumptions needed and erroneous ones lead to very different results.

      Like people will calculate just the cost of the gas for carbon emissions, but then factor in the lifespan of a display and the cost to transport and construct it etc. Which, then you need to do the same with the car.

      The climate problem is a big problem that needs aggressive action. But it is such a moral/practical imperative that people feel justified playing extremely fast and loose with the facts, to the extent sometimes they aren’t even using facts anymore, more like negative wishful thinking.

  3. Saying Miami will be underwater makes for great clickbait, but no one that actually has money at stake seems to believe you Neil. New South Florida beachfront condos are going up constantly selling in 7-8 figure range. Banks are still loaning people money to buy them on 30-year loans and insurance companies will gladly write you a policy. Even President Obama doesn’t buy into rising sea-levels as he and Michelle just bought a Martha’s Vineyard Mansion about 50 yards from the ocean for $11.75 Million. https://www.townandcountrymag.com/leisure/real-estate/a30169311/barack-michelle-obama-buy-marthas-vineyard-house/

    • Both homebuyers and insurers have a hard time understanding that past performance doesn’t guarantee future results, especially when you have something that’s as much of a loaded-dice roll as climate. (Nobody would lay even odds on Miami becoming uninhabitable next year, or the year after, or even in the next decade or two. However, the odds of it keep going up year by year.) But insurers, at least, are starting to sit up and take notice:

      https://www.insurancejournal.com/news/national/2019/11/21/549244.htm

      https://e360.yale.edu/digest/climate-change-could-make-insurance-unaffordable-for-most-people

      • And hey, actually it turns out that property at higher elevations in Miami is rising in value faster than property at lower elevations. So despite people loving waterfront views, fear of sea-level rise does actually appear to be influencing purchasing decisions:

        https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/aabb32

        • Not True the most valuable real estate in South Florida is by far all costal and there are very little change of elevation anywhere is South Florida short of the landfill on the Dade/Broward line.

          • Right, coastal property is always more valuable because yay ocean views. But as the link above clearly shows, inland values are RISING FASTER than coastal ones – some of that could be that coastal properties are already as gentrified as they can get, but fear of ending up with five feet of seawater in your living room is likely a factor, too.

      • Hell, all you have to do is look at the bubble/run-up to the 2008 real-estate crash and see how even most of the ‘expert’ economists were poo-poohing any correction, to see how basically irrational the housing/real-estate sector is — and those were the supposed ‘adults in the room’. The people with money in the game (insurers, developers, land-owners/sellers, etc) are not inclined to look even 10 yrs down the road… they’re just looking as far as their commission checks, especially in today’s economy (e.g. the ~$22T national debt). And enough buyers get emotionally caught up in the ‘fever’, which is how bubbles happen.
        So for ‘Mick’ to cite buyers and insurance agents as serious, reputable sources of climate-change projections is a bit naive…

        • Who cited agents and buyers? I cited insurance companies that literally have 1000s of highly trained risk assessment personnel and underwriting personnel and billions at stake? Ditto financial institution who are and incredibly regulated since 2007. For good measure, I also cited President Obama whose actions apparently contradict his rhetoric.

    • Yeah people underestimate how much mitigation will happen. Miami isn’t going to be underwater. What it is, is going to have steadily more and more and more and more costly water problems.

      The timescales on which it is underwater, are over several generations, and on a generational level it is easy enough to just relocate a lot of the people (though expensive).

      • It depends on how quickly salt water infiltrates the aquifer, and how much desalinization costs. Mitigation is possible up to a point, but also at a certain point it becomes so expensive that people start leaving. (Unless the federal government covers the costs, I suppose.)

        My money is still on Phoenix as the first major city to become unlivable, if only because it’s easier to build desalinization plants than an air-conditioned dome over an entire city.

        Building Inter Miami’s stadium on low ground is still pretty dumb, but then, so is this:

        https://www.6sqft.com/coney-islands-new-ocean-dreams-rental-towers-topped-out-to-open-next-summer/

        • Yeah I certainly wouldn’t be investing in real estate in Miami. You would think there will start being significant downward pressure on prices from increased costs at some point. Maybe not next year, maybe not in 20 years, but in some years.

  4. Even Derek Smalls favourite club (Shrewsbury Town FC) eventually figured out that a stadium in a location that regularly floods is not workable.

    Beckham and Mas? not so much…

    https://www.google.com/search?-d&q=shrewsbury+town+gay+meadow&tbm=isch&chips=q:shrewsbury+town+gay+meadow,g_1:flooding&usg=AI4_-kTGCNJ3q5f1MZll5q9tTP95AVOlyw&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjO9azHsKfnAhXWi54KHX-sCAoQgIoDKAV6BAgGEAk&biw=1163&bih=604

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gay_Meadow

    Eventually, the cost to either prevent/reduce flooding or the cost to repair the damage from same becomes prohibitive. It doesn’t really matter how much money you spend on mitigation measures, at some point water will find its way in if you build below actual or expected water levels.

    It is much the same as building on a bluff that overlooks a canyon or river valley. Think about how that bluff came to be. You might get 50 years out of your new house, or perhaps only 20. And long before the end of it’s normal lifespan, you will likely be unable to insure or sell it because ground movement has made it uninhabitable.

    We like to do these things, us humans. Look at that beautifully flat and rich soil right by the lovely river! It’s perfect! Let’s set up shop there permanently…

  5. Maybe if we would all just ignore the environment, it will just go away!

    Now where was I? Oh, right! Lazio versus Roma. Colosseum really needs replacement.

    PILOT, TIF, TOT, some Vaportecture and VOILA, a new Colosseum!

  6. Since most new stadiums are lucky to see even a couple decades of use before teams are itching to move or replace them, this may be one area where climate change predictions are largely moot.

    Also maybe I’m out of the loop, but is there a lot of competition in the category of “influential environmental advocates in the history of sports”, or is this sort of like, say, bragging about being on the highest hill in Miami?

    Oh, and if you’re looking for a baseball stadium to be the bellwether of sea level rise, keep an eye on Harbor Park, where the “Norfolk Tides” is both the name of the minor-league baseball team and an event which floods the parking lots several times per year.