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?

The Atlantic:

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…

8 Responses to “Has Climate Change begun to Destroy Property Values?”

  1. Wes Says:

    It was people like Stossel (the wealthy) that pushed Federal flood insurance through so they could build in unsafe areas. Private insurance companies are too good at risk management to sell cheap insurance for beachfront homes.

    I remember seeing an article about expensive homes built on barrier islands in (I think) the Galveston Texas area, and how a hurricane had totally destroyed them. One of the homeowners was interviewed and he proudly announced he was rebuilding in the same place, thanks to Federal flood insurance. Why do the rest of us have to pay for this insanity?

    • rayduray Says:

      Re: “One of the homeowners was interviewed and he proudly announced he was rebuilding in the same place, thanks to Federal flood insurance.”

      Actually, it is highly unlikely he was able to rebuild. The State of Texas has a sensible law on the books about hurricane damaged properties not being able to be permitted by local building authorities to rebuild after major storm damage. Or at least that was what I read in the aftermath of the most recent hurricane to impact Galveston Island. So if that house did get re-built, it would nave been done by means of collusion, graft and a flaunting of the will of the people of the great state of Texas. In other words, business as usual.

    • andrewfez Says:

      Some of our wealthy folks try to give the perception that they are all for free market ideals, but they know perfectly well that if they didn’t have the government issuing protectionist agendas, so that they don’t see the same level of market risk that they like to impose on the middle class, that the cards would fall. Look at the savings and loan crisis, or look at the housing bubble: the same people that helped create the mess are the same people appointed to advise on how to solve the mess. The solution: give the banks a lot of free money! Unregulated free market capitalism is what the US uses to destroy other little countries who have assets our wealthy class wants.

      It’s the same with global warming: all those fossil industry CEO’s and such know how dangerous it is, but their goal is to maximize short term profit. I think in America, the CEO is even legally obligated to maximize short term profit.

      Anyway, here’s a carbon negative biofuel idea from coolplanet:


      Imagine driving high performance cars and large family safe SUV’s while actually reversing global warming, and without using any foreign oil.That’s the vision of Cool Planet. We’re developing revolutionary negative carbon fuels based on plant photosynthesis which absorbs CO2 from the air. We can make exact replacements for gasoline that will operate in your current cars and, we can make even more advanced superfuels for even higher gas mileage and better performance in vehicles of the future.

      Our proprietary biomass fractionator technology extracts useful hydrocarbons from biomass leaving behind the excess carbon as a high purity solid. The process generates activated carbon with a very high surface area which will allow it to be used as a soil enhancer creating soil similar to “terra preta.” By burying this carbon in an appropriate manner, we can greatly enhance soil fertility while sequestering carbon for hundreds of years. In contrast, normal plant decomposition occurs in just a few years, releasing the plant’s carbon as CO2 and even more harmful methane gas. Our process yields about the same amount of carbon as gasoline so, if we sequester this carbon as a soil enhancer, or simply bury it as coal, the associated fuel has a full Carbon Negative Rating.

  2. […] 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 …  […]

  3. Peter Mizla Says:

    beach front property – buying it these days- seems like a risk that in a few more years will be considered just plain dangerous. The allure and glamor of shore property is gone.

  4. prokaryotes Says:

    Calif. City Building a “Tsunami-Resistant” Port http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/calif-city-building-tsunami-resistant-port-17787404

    ABC manages it to not mention Sea Level Rise and Climate Change…

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