WASHINGTON (April 1, 2014) – The R Street Institute today called on Congress to make a major public commitment to fund research into alternative technologies to aid citizens who are encouraged by the government to live in coastal areas that soon may be underwater.

According to consensus projections, global sea levels are expected to rise by six to 16 inches by 2050 and potentially by as much as 6.6 feet by the end of the century. The Union of Concerned Scientists notes that rates of sea level rise are particularly fast along the U.S. East Coast and Gulf of Mexico, which currently have a combined $10.6 trillion of insured commercial and residential property in coastal counties. Even if sea levels rise less than expected, furthermore, storms are certain to bring continued flooding to many coastal areas.

“It would be more cost-effective if we could address climate change by exploring ideas like a revenue-neutral carbon tax, or at least stop encouraging stupid development in at-risk flood zones,” newly appointed R Street Senior Fellow Arthur Curry said. “But since both houses of Congress and members of both parties have now spoken loud and clear that they won’t stop subsidizing flood insurance for beach houses, beach nourishment and other stuff that’s hugely wasteful, the next best strategy is adaptation. “

Under R Street’s proposed Abandoning The Lungs for Advanced Nautical Technology in Inundated Societies (ATLANTIS) Act, the federal government would commit at least $10 trillion over the next decade to development of “artificial human gills,” a technology that allows people to breathe the oxygen dissolved in sea water and which is totally a real thing that R Street did not just make up.  In fact, an Israeli company called Like-A-Fish Technologies has held a European patent on the technology since 2007, indicating a potentially serious national security gap as the United States falls further behind in strategic merman defense.

“Yes, we’re fiscal conservatives,” R Street President Eli Lehrer said. “But what’s another $10 trillion for something that would be so darn cool?”

“Jimi Hendrix totally foresaw this day would come, man,” R Street Senior Fellow R.J. Lehmann said. “If you play the third verse of his song ‘1983…A Merman I Should Turn to Be’ backwards, you can totally hear him say ‘Harry Reid is a hypocrite.’ Well, it’s either that or ‘Harry Reasoner’s a parakeet.’ Yeah, 1983 is about 30 years too early, but that’s Jimi, man. Always ahead of his time.”

The ATLANTIS Act also would commit an additional $5 trillion to submarine retrofitting, to better enable inundated structures to withstand the pressure of being submerged below the surface of the ocean. To better control the exorbitant costs of underwater demolition and construction, Curry proposes the measure include incentives for the use of fish, crustaceans and cephalopods as a work force.

“An octopus, obviously, can be a fantastic multi-tasker, but other sea creatures each have their own specialties: sawfish are great carpenters, eels do bang-up electrical work, pilot fish are the best to get into dark crevices,” Curry said. “Hammerhead sharks make surprisingly good foremen, but they do have an unfortunate tendency to eat their crew.”

Curry said greater clarity still would be needed on what sorts of work visas are required for aquatic fauna spawned outside of U.S. territorial waters, and urged that the matter be addressed in the coming immigration reform debate.

R Street Executive Director Andrew Moylan proposed that, in the interim years before the East and Gulf Coasts are completely inundated, Congress also might want to consider funding research into artificial human wings.

“It certainly would save us the cost of all those helicopters that will be needed to pluck people off rooftops each time a big hurricane hits,” Moylan said.

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