For The Wealthy, Climate-Gated Communities. For the Rest of Us, Whatever is Left

July 22, 2013

In a walking tour of Nuuk, Greenland’s capital, Jason Box pointed to some modest cottages perched on rocks overlooking the water. “These people are wealthy.” he told us. “That is high end real estate, worth millions.”  It seemed a long way from Manhattan or Malibu – but one does have a sense that some formerly neglected and undesirable places in the world could see a change in coming decades.

Fast CoExist:

Fabulously wealthy British futurist James Martin spoke about climate change at New York’s Lincoln Center and how it will change global population patterns in one of his last public appearances before passing away on June 30 at 79 years of age. Martin, who donated more than $150 million to Oxford University and lived on his own private Bermudan island, believed one of the biggest land booms in history is on its way–and it will happen in less than 100 years.

At the June 15 Global Future 2045 conference, Martin explained that events like Superstorm Sandy and Hurricane Katrina will hit major American cities harder and more frequently because of climate change. Scientists and politicians have even come to the conclusion that whole countries such as Mauritius and Tuvalu will need to evacuate due to rising sea levels. But while coastlines in much of the world may suffer, climate change will be a positive development in some areas. Specifically, Canada; northern Europe; Russia; Alaska; Patagonia, Argentina; and southern Africa may all experience real estate booms. These booms, he claimed, will be in “Climate Change Cities” with military fortifications catering to an increasingly displaced global elite.

The idea of climate change-triggered mass migration has been around for a long time. Martin’s idea of climate-change cities centers around migration by the upper and upper middle class, but politicians, charities, and bureaucrats worldwide have quietly (and not so quietly) been gearing up for a torrent of refugees fleeing newly inhabitable lands.

This past June, Pacific Ocean island nations hosted a summit on climate change migration where best practices to evacuate thousands upon thousands of people were discussed. For the guests assembled on the island of Rarotonga, the big question was what happens when sea levels rise to a point where island populations simply can’t support themselves. Instead of being discussed as a science fiction hypothetical, the question was treated with steely reality.

As any player of Civilization knows, most major cities anchor trade routes. This means cities are more often than not built seaside or on a riverbank, which puts them at severe risk from rising sea levels. In the United States alone, New York, New Orleans, Chicago, Miami, Boston, San Francisco, Seattle and many other cities face the risk of whole neighborhoods becoming uninhabitable because of climate change. Here in Co.Exist’s hometown of New York City, the Rockaways and large portions of Staten Island and New Jersey are asking themselves just how extensively to rebuild in the wake of Sandy.

Continuing with the New York example, Mayor Michael Bloomberg recently proposed a $20 billion climate change plan for the city. The plan is designed to mitigate damage from another Sandy-sized storm and would drastically change everyday life for New Yorkers, with sharply increased taxes and large construction projects in most seaside neighborhoods. But what happens at that unspecified future date when the climate change mitigation plans fail?

Exxon Chairman Rex Tillerson famously told us last year – no worries about climate change, “..we’ll adapt to that.”  I’m sure that for the fabulously wealthy like Tillerson, there will be options for centuries to come. For the rest of us, the outlook is not so clear.

17 Responses to “For The Wealthy, Climate-Gated Communities. For the Rest of Us, Whatever is Left”

  1. junkdrawer88 Says:

    The wealthy are surrounding themselves with a Security State and hunkering down in an insane, machine gun protected version of Lost Horizon.

    And it has every bit a chance of succeeding as this:

  2. omnologos Says:

    “mitigate damage” = “adapt”. No?

    • Mitigate means prevention, my friend. And that would mean rapid cessation of fossil fuel use, emissions.

    • skeptictmac57 Says:


        • skeptictmac57 Says:

          I guess it depends on what you mean,but in the context of how it has been used by those for whom alternative energy and efforts to curb the use of greenhouse gas emitting energy source are heretical,then ‘adapt’ means:

          “There is no need to stop using, or curbing our fossil fuel usage,and adopt wind,solar and other alternative sources,because if the worst happens (and surely God will prevent that) then we will just adapt to it,because climate has changed in the past,and will change in the future,and we always get by…nothing to see here.”
          ….That’s why not.

        • skeptictmac57 Says:

          By way of analogy, if you wanted to ‘mitigate’ the possibility of rear-ending a vehicle that suddenly stopped in your path,you might slow your rate of speed,and/or swerve from that path if safety permitted.
          But ‘adapting’ to that situation might consist of bracing yourself and hoping that the airbag will save you,and possibly saying a prayer,and hope for speedy emergency services (or if this was anticipated by previous carelessness on your part,maybe you would be already be driving a 6,000 Lb Hummer).

          • omnologos Says:

            skepticmac – I have found this definition of adaptation. You may want to review your use of the word.

            Adaptation – Adjustment in natural or human systems in response to actual or expected climatic stimuli or their effects, which moderates harm or exploit beneficial opportunities. Various types of adaptation can be distinguished, including anticipatory and reactive adaptation, private and public adaptation, and autonomous and planned adaptation (IPCC, 2001).

          • skeptictmac57 Says:

            Omno- You could find dictionary definitions which support both your contention,and mine. The important element in this discussion is HOW the word is used by those who seek to derail efforts to transition to a much lower GHG producing world.
            If they see adaptation as migration to higher,cooler ground,building sea walls,geoengineering,moving agricultural centers etc. without any attempt to
            mitigate (not adapt) the use of fossil fuels by moving to alternatives because they are ideologically opposed to them,then yeah,that’s why not.
            Words aren’t just what you say,they are what you mean…context is everything.

  3. stephengn1 Says:

    Tillerson’s statement is especially galling when one considers the reality of the “we” and the “that” in “We’ll adapt to that”.

    We (the people who have become rich selling you the products that caused the problem) will adapt to that (the coming global changes that we refuse to admit exist so we can keep growing richer and more adaptive)

    You, however, will be on your own

  4. Elysium — a very close allegory to what 2100 could look like in the worst case. Although I don’t believe the current crop of ‘elites’ has the vision, foresight or enginuity to construct an actual ring-world. More likely, they’ll be trying to hide themselves away in hollowed out mountains, running out their contracting lives on the power of buried nuclear reactors as everyone else fights, starves, or dies due to heat injury and violent weather.

  5. andrewfez Says:

    I think a lot of the adaptation will be psychological adaptation to lower standards of living. A higher % of the paycheck going to food and less going to iphones and Ford Mustangs. Use of the tried, true, and cheap blood pressure meds like metoprolol and hydrochlorothiazide in place of the more expensive, just-to-the-market stuff.

    Has anyone ran any numbers on if the gov. keeps trying to subsidize Coke, Apple, McDonalds, Colgate Palmolive, Pfeizer, Teva, etc., by paying for food and medical care for the poor, lower-middle, and some average-middle class people using projections for growth rates, food and consumer staple prices? My worry is that a possible positive feedback loop will occur where the price of food increases and spikes here and there during large multidecade-long droughts that were common in America, during the Medieval Warm Period, and this means the gov. has to take in more taxes to keep the poor in the American, first world lifestyle, which then causes more people to need assistance, which triggers more tax increases, etc., eventually turning the country into a true socialist paradise.

    Some adaptation to lower standards of living may have a positive lining. More people start growing healthy food in their gardens. Less people over consume food, and more gardening means more exercise (and it’s a good stress reliever), leading to lower medical bills and premiums. Less stress, trying to keep up with the Jones’ too.

    • I truly do not understand the small house movement. Why not simply insulate a larger, more comfortable home so well it requires no energy to heat or cool?

      Training oneself to live in cramped quarters seems pathologically masochistic to me. Many young Japanese live in apartments the size of a broom closet because of economic considerations. This is dehumanizing, not noble it, seems to me.

      The small house movement, it seems to me, misses the point completely. A self-sustaining 100& renewable energy future does not demand suffering or a decrease in quality of life. That narrative comes from the fossil fuel industry, and I refuse to accept it.

      • skeptictmac57 Says:

        And Japan is a special case where land is at an extreme premium,and that may be the biggest factor for them.This is much less the case in the U.S. for the most part,unless you choose to live in New York City or the like. Land here in Texas is still relatively affordable ,and you can have a rather large,comfortable house,and put your money in to more efficient materials and appliances, yet also have the option (additionally) to buy 100% wind power. Buy an electric car for commuting,and you are on the track to fairly clean living,with lots of yard space for that ‘Victory Garden’ as well.
        Trying to sell the idea of living like a monk when there are other viable options is a poor strategy in my opinion,but I would never criticize anyone who choose that path for themselves.
        Sometimes simpler can be better for some,but one size does not fit all…literally in this case.

      • stephengn1 Says:

        I think this movement (if you can call it that – I don’t see droves of Americans rushing to move into small places) reflects an understandable desired to rebel against our current consumerism for the sake of consumerism mentality and also a desire to utilize as little a personal “footprint” as possible. It’s not only about energy, but also minimizing the use and maximizing the reuse of manufactured and raw materials on a planet with 7 billion – I honestly don’t think most Americans are getting their heads around what 7 billion people means.

        Still, this “movement” is certainly not made up of people with families or the elderly. It is made up of young or middle age SINGLE idealists looking for a measure of financial independence and also the measure off the grid autonomy this austere and frugal lifestyle provides.

        I think there are a lot of people out there who were attracted to those nicely furnished Hobbit burrows in Lord of the Rings. That said, i think that anything under 300 square feet is pushing it – I like showering and do not like having to sleep next to my toilet.

      • andrewfez Says:

        Just looking at several of those videos on Youtube, and a few videos featuring <500sqft cabins, most owners are motivated by not having to pay a mortgage and large property taxes (and other domestic bills). Some folks are using their tiny homes as a stepping stone to save up enough to buy a regular home.

        I don't blame them. Where I live, in areas where the median household income is 50 to 70k, small, starter home prices are 300 to 500k. The financial industry has wreaked havoc on the real estate market here and in and around several major cities in America. The thing is, the whole recovery is just smoke and mirrors and if the Fed stopped printing, the government got out of the home loan business, and banks started foreclosing on traditional schedules we'd be right back to 2008 once again. Lots more people are renting. Tiny homes is just one extension or symptom of a larger problem. Residential real estate is now another board game piece the financial industry has in its portfolio of instruments to manipulate for profit. Further, the idea of working 30 or 40 years for the same company is also going away too, so having a home on wheels is a good move.

        One of the things to worry about when you start insulating a home to the extreme is air exchange. So that's extra money right there, getting set up to keep the oxygen flowing in and the CO2 and other indoor pollutants flowing out, whilst retaining desired temperatures.

        But regarding tiny homes – as I said, psychological adaptation: the home is your bedroom suite. The outside (world) is your living room.

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