As Climate Talks Commence, Cancun’s Beaches Are Washing Away

The annual international climate talks began this week in Cancun, Mexico, the beach resort city that has already lost most of its beaches to climate change. Negotiators for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change — which the United States ratified in 1992 to “prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system” — are working in the shadow of the collapse of American climate policy during one of the hottest years in recorded history. Increasingly violent storms and rising seas — fueled by the continued burning of fossil fuels — have “aggravated the folly of building a tourist destination atop shifting sand dunes on a narrow peninsula,” the Associated Press reports:

Cancun’s eroding white sand beaches are providing a note of urgency to the climate talks being held just south of this seaside resort famed for its postcard-perfect vistas. Rising sea levels and a series of unusually powerful hurricanes have aggravated the folly of building a tourist destination atop shifting sand dunes on a narrow peninsula. After the big storms hit, the bad ideas were laid bare: Much of Cancun’s glittering hotel strip is now without a beach. Hotels built too tall, too heavy and too close to the shore, as well as beaches stripped of native vegetation to make them more tourist-friendly, have contributed to the massive erosion.

To maintain the semblance of normality in this tourist destination, “tons of sand are being pumped from offshore sandbars by two huge dredgers and is then sprayed along miles of Cancun’s hardest hit areas.”

The Wonk Room will be reporting live from the climate talks through next week.