Has Climate Change begun to Destroy Property Values?
November 19, 2012
It’s been said that we won’t begin to see action on climate change until its effects reach beyond the poor, the vulnerable, and those in the developing world. The concern has been that by the time those effects are obvious to the elite, we will be too far along the road to make much of a difference.
Could it be that Superstorm Sandy has pushed the time clock forward on that?
All signs are pointing to a slow-but-steady (if uneven) U.S. housing market recovery. But the worst may be yet to come for one valuable slice of the pie: waterfront properties.
Sea level is generally expected to rise three to seven feet by the end of this century. But it could be long before that seaside property values plummet. Oceanographer John Englander puts it this way in his new book, High Tide On Main Street: Rising Sea Level and the Coming Coastal Crisis: “Property values will go underwater long before property actually goes underwater.”
The effect, Englander’s writes, “may begin to be felt within a decade.”
One week after Englander’s book went on sale, Hurricane Sandy slammed into the Northeast coastline, inundating the nation with surreal images of a flooded lower Manhattan and pulverized neighborhoods across coastal Long Island and New Jersey. He now says he’s revised his within-a-decade estimate.
“I think it happened two weeks ago.”
Englander’s only half joking. He’s a respected authority in his field — so much so that in 1997, legendary explorer Jacques Cousteau asked him to take the helm of The Cousteau Society. “I dare say that if you went to go buy coastal real estate in New Jersey right now, you could buy it for a lot less than you could a month ago,” he says. “People are nervous. They know it’s been storm damaged, and when will it happen next?”
Markets turn, at least in part, on big shifts in public thinking. The last few weeks have put the visible effects of climate change on the front page of every major newspaper, despite the fact that the topic didn’t come up once in this year’s three presidential debates.
Not long after the Sandy wrecking ball, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg issued his surprise endorsement of President Obama, citing the superstorm and noting that even if it wasn’t surely caused by climate change, “the risk that it might be” should compel action.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo remarked that The Empire State “has a 100-year flood every two years now” — a perception echoed in public by at least half-a-dozen Congressional leaders over the last year-and-a-half in the hearings over last year’s epic Mississippi River floods.
No discussion of the issue would be complete without the priceless video cap from Fox News’ discussion of the flood insurance issue with over-the-top hypocrite and hyper-libertarian John “I hate government programs but hell yeah I’ll take the flood insurance money for my beach house” Stossel.
Fox News’ John Stossel railed against the National Flood Insurance Program during an appearance on Fox & Friends on Thursday, blaming the government for encouraging people to build homes in high-risk areas and arguing that private companies should take over the practice.
During the segment, Stossel showed pictures of his own beach front property and explained that while he supported repealing program, he did purchase its coverage and planned to collect its benefits. The contradictory position stumped conservative guest host Peter Johnson Jr,. who couldn’t understand why the longtime libertarian would voluntarily benefit from a governemnt program he opposes:
PETER JOHNSON JR: Wait a second. That are not on the beach that, are not on river fronts that are blocks in that never anticipated that the ocean would come, that the bay would come. They paid their premiums. They’re not rich people like you were. If you’re so rich, why don’t you give the money back? [...]
STOSSEL: Why was the federal government selling it? I blame the politicians. We don’t have special car insurance for Lindsay Lohan. … I paid the premium. I’m going to take the money. Of course you’re going to take the money. [...]
STEVE DOOCY (HOST): You know John, I know you collected three times from the federal government, it was an absolutely great deal…