Video: King Tide Sea Level Rise Flooding Season Kicks Off Along the US Coastline

Aaaaaaand, here we go again. King tide sea level rise flooding season kicked off this week in the historic Marina District in Delray Beach, Florida. Every fall, the sun and moon align in a way that creates extra high tides over and over again.

Coastal communities all over the US are experiencing similar sunny day flooding that’s only getting worse due to sea level rise. Cities and towns are spending billions of dollars to hold back the water, which will ultimately be proven futile unless we cut back on burning the fossil fuels that are causing global warming.

This round of flooding, which peaks on Thursday, is bound to worsen the storm surge from Hurricane Ian. I really feel for the people who have to live like this. The salty water is murder on vehicles and property. Stay tuned.

Buyers Beware: Owners are Selling Properties Targeted for Sea Level Rise Flooding Buyouts

The Miami Herald ran two articles (both behind paywalls/titles listed below) on Sunday that discussed how the Florida Keys and Miami-Dade County are managing properties targeted for buyouts due to storm surge and sea level rise flooding. The Florida Keys is making some slow process in purchasing distressed properties, while Miami-Dade County has dropped the ball completely. In both locales, some owners dazzled by rapidly appreciating real estate prices have resorted to selling properties to buyers after applying to buyout programs, which, unfortunately, puts the new buyers, wittingly or unwittingly, at risk of flooding complications.

Thousands of US coastal properties have been purchased through government buyouts over the last decade, and the trend is accelerating as the sea level rises. Often the buyouts occur after hurricane storm surges (which are growing more powerful and damaging as sea level rises) flood neighborhoods. Buyouts are also becoming more common in areas that experience so-called rainy day or nuisance flooding due to much higher than normal tides.

National and state governments are eager to remove properties that require frequent, expensive repair or replacement from repeated flooding from the insurance rolls. They also want to avoid the expense of maintaining critical infrastructure — such as roads, sewer and water systems, and storm drains — in flood-prone areas.

After Hurricane Irma sent a powerful and devastating storm surge into some of the Florida Keys in 2017, Monroe County acquired federal funding to buyout damaged and flood-prone properties. The county received 80 applications from real estate owners and has purchased nine properties. County officials hope to buy another dozen soon.

According to the Miami Herald article, one massive roadblock that has prevented more purchases is rapid appreciation in the housing market over the last couple of years. In some cases, owners who had agreed to the buyout and demolition of their frequently-flooded properties decided instead to sell them for prices higher than they would have received under the buyout program. To remedy the situation, the county has received permission to offer more money for properties from the state agency that’s coordinated the buyout funds.

Miami-Dade County initiated a similar buyout program, but in three years the county hasn’t purchased a single one of ten properties that were targeted by buyouts. The lack of performance has led to the state administrative agency taking back the funds that were to be used for the purchases. Some of the buyout eligible property owners are angry that the county failed to complete the purchases as promised. In one instance, a developer has purchased a flood-prone property with the intent of constructing an 11-unit building on the lot. The developer was unable to tell the county what steps it would take to flood-proof the property but the county approved the project anyway.

Buyouts are controversial but necessary in areas where properties cannot be protected from storm surge and sea level rise flooding. Buyout opponents believe no matter how many times a property floods, insurers and governments are responsible for helping them to repair the damage and maintain roads and water and sewer service. Proponents, however, recognize when the battle is lost and they appreciated the government assistance when they’re ready to move on.

The current situation where some homes targeted for buyouts are actually purchased and demolished while others are being sold to buyers with or without them being aware of the property’s flood status needs to be addressed. The fact is each state has its own seller disclosure laws, so too often buyers are left in the dark about the level of threat posed by storm surge and sea level rise flooding. Until this unfair situation is resolved, buyers need to gather information from more than just sellers to ensure they’re not purchasing a property that was targeted for a buyout unless they’re prepared to accept the risk that their investment will literally end up underwater.

Editor’s Note: Here are the paywall protected article titles “Miami-Dade failed to buy flooded homes; Now high-risk sites open to more development” and “Buyouts take flood-prone Keys properties off the market. There are more sellers waiting”.

Credit Rating Service DBRS Morningstar Explores Threat Sea Level Rise Flooding Poses to Commercial Real Estate

DBRS Morningstar, a global credit ratings business, released a report this week titled “As Seas Rise, Coastal Commercial Properties Will Need to Batten Down the Hatches” that explores the threat sea level rise flooding poses to commercial real estate.

Analysts combined data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) — which estimates sea level rise in the next thirty years will exceed the total rise that occurred in the last 100 years — and flood risk data from First Street Foundation and Arup to identify the coastal communities most at risk of flooding. “The five metropolitan areas with the highest aggregated total projected structural damage costs across office, retail, and multi-unit residential buildings are the Miami (with an estimated $1.07 billion in structural damages), New York ($0.58 billion), Pittsburgh ($0.45 billion), Boston ($0.33 billion) and Houston ($0.29 billion) metropolitan areas,” according to the report. Inland Pittsburgh was included in the report because its proximity to three rivers that meet makes it “particularly susceptible to flooding”.

The report notes that in addition to a heightened risk of flooding from higher more powerful storm surges, more intense rainstorms, and nuisance flooding (tidal flooding that occurs when there are no storms around), owners of commercial real estate may find it difficult to pay for flooding-related repairs. That’s because the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s National Flood Insurance Program caps coverage at $500,000 for a commercial building and $500,000 for its contents. Owners have to turn to the private insurance market for additional coverage.

To combat sea level rise flooding, the report mentions options such as raising elevations at development sites, elevating mechanicals, and installing temporary/portable seawalls, but the authors also note that site-specific solutions aren’t enough. They have to be made in tandem with community efforts to protect critical infrastructure.

In addition to flood damage, insurance, and prevention efforts, the DBRS Morningstar report also mentions that credit rating agencies are beginning to consider the impact of sea level rise flooding as a factor in financial transactions. “Investors and underwriters no longer have the luxury of simply checking if a property is outside of FEMA’s 100-year flood zones and verifying there is some evidence of flood insurance,” the report says. “Because climate change is rapidly evolving, models based solely on historical data have become less accurate.”

The bottom line here is that commercial real estate owners can expect far more closer scrutiny of their individual properties and their exposure to sea level rise flooding when they’re seeking loans. This report is a must-read for anyone involved in commercial real estate located in coastal communities experiencing or at-risk of experiencing sea level rise flooding.

New Campaign Motivates People to Act on Climate Change and Sea Level Rise, But Is It Enough?

“There’s still time to prevent climate change devastation” is a message that’s being repeated by public officials, many climate scientists, and pundits. Actually motivating people to get involved, however, is a critical challenge that could make a huge difference in where we end up.

The CLEO Institute and the VoLo Foundation — two non-profit organizations working to solve the climate crisis in Florida –have teamed up with the Union of Concerned Scientists to launch a public awareness campaign that uses a unique gift shop to show the public what’s at stake in the Sunshine State and asks them to do something about it. A video released today features The Emergency State gift shop, where shoppers (apparently actors) are shown browsing typical tourist merchandise when water floods through vents into the store. The tourists appear shocked by the experience, then they tell interviewers that they’re convinced something needs to be done to fight climate change and sea level rise.

Viewers are encouraged to sign a petition — titled “Don’t Let the Sunshine State Become the Emergency State!” — that calls on elected officials to do more to “stop depending on dirty, polluting energy sources that are rising temperatures and disrupting our climate”. The petition notes that climate change is already impacting Floridians’ lives. “It is driving higher costs of real estate, property insurance, energy, and food,” the petition states, “along with an imminent threat to our drinking water source due to seawater intrusion, as well as loss of our precious biodiversity, like our coral reef systems and the Florida manatee.” The petition’s goal is to pressure elected officials to put “Florida on a clean, renewable energy pathway and a rapid transition to net-zero emissions by 2040”. They have a point, too. Florida’s governor is spending billions of dollars on defenses against sea level rise flooding but won’t publicly acknowledge that burning oil, coal and natural gas is the driving force behind global warming and sea level rise.

Now for the review:

I had mixed reactions watching the video and reading the petition. While the groups involved in The Emergency State project should be commended for their effort to increase public awareness of the impact climate change and sea level rise flooding are having in Florida, I’m not sure this is the most effective approach. Floridians and most people who live in US coastal communities are already seeing the real-world effects of climate change and sea level rise flooding on national and local news programs. Real people, not actors, are regularly shown trudging and driving through floodwaters, so I’m not sure what value an admittedly creative dramatization adds to the public discussion.

I believe what’s really missing from our public discourse — and what many people are eager to see — is a campaign that shows them what specific steps they can take right now to reduce the burning of fossil fuels that is causing the planet to rapidly warm. If such a campaign already exists, it’s certainly not reaching me.

My dream campaign (disclosure: I have worked in public relations, public affairs, grassroots organizing, marketing, and advertising and as a reporter and columnist) would cover the actions I listed in an article I posted on Earth Day in May. I imagine 30-60 second public service announcements that illustrate the following productive actions:

  1. Vote ONLY for candidates who are dedicated to fighting climate change.
  2. Drive only when necessary, consolidate trips and share the ride.
  3. Purchase the most energy efficient vehicles you can afford and ride public transportation when available.
  4. Weather-proof your home and office and set thermostats at a reasonable level.
  5. Buy energy-efficient appliances.
  6. Turn off lights and electronics that aren’t in use.
  7. Buy only goods you actually need.
  8. Eat a more plant-based diet.

I’m sure there are many more tips that could be added to this list. The point of this exercise is that people are becoming increasingly aware of the impact climate change is having on their lives. Now, instead of making them more fearful, we need to show them what they can do to make a difference.

This approach has worked before, it can work again. For example: When I was a kid during the energy crisis in the 1970s, ads that asked people to take steps similar to the ones listed above were effective reminders that we weren’t mere pawns in the energy economy, even the smallest gestures repeated by hundreds of millions of Americans could make a big difference. I’d gladly participate in any effort to get the “YOU Can Stop Climate Change Now” campaign started.

Sea Level Rise Will Impact 650,000 US Properties by 2050

A study released today by Climate Central, a climate change research group, concluded that 650,000 US coastal properties will be impacted by sea level rise flooding by 2050. To reach this conclusion, researchers analyzed state and county level tax reports in areas currently experiencing or at-risk of sea level rise flooding.

Among the key findings:

  1. More than 648,000 properties on 4.4 million acres are at risk of experiencing at least some measure of flooding.
  2. Over 48,000 properties may be entirely flooded.
  3. The low elevation states of Florida, Louisiana and Texas have the most at-risk properties.
  4. By 2100, over $100 billion worth of property will be at risk from rising seas.

The loss of properties threatens to create other problems for coastal communities and whole states. Properties that flood may become uninhabitable or lose value, which can harm the tax base that pays for schools, emergency services, critical infrastructure and numerous other services. Individual property owners, too, could also see their valuable real estate assets lose value, which can impact their wealth and retirement income.

To combat sea level rise flooding, governments in coastal communities are investing billions of dollars in property buyouts, pumping stations, the elevation of roads and other critical infrastructure, and the creation and improvement of sea walls and other flood-control barriers. In most cases, property owners are paying higher taxes to fund the projects. The loss of property value and tax revenues due to sea level rise flooding could create a spiral that makes funding these projects increasingly expensive, which will leave even more properties vulnerable to flooding.

Among the solutions Climate Central researchers recommend governments implement are encouraging development outside the sea level rise flooding risk zones, educating property owners about the risks rising seas pose to them, and, of course, reducing the burning of fossil fuels that are behind global warming and sea level rise.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to Reconsider Miami Storm Surge Plan

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers folded to public opposition this week and agreed to hold off on a controversial plan to construct flood gates and high walls along the coast to prevent storm surge from inundating the city.

The Cops sent a letter to Miami-Dade County officials notifying them that they will spend over $8 million and up to five years working to come up with new plans that use more natural solutions to fending off storm surges in way that would also help Biscayne Bay, which is suffering environmental degradation due to sewage spills and other human activities. This basically takes the Corps back to square one after an initial $3 million and three years were spent drafting a plan to address storm surge.

Opposition to the initial plan came from residents who did not want to see the construction of tall and unsightly floodgates and walls blocking the view along the city’s coastline. The Corps had also proposed elevating flood-prone structures and buying out owners of properties that could not be saved. In addition to considering natural surge-control solutions, the corps has also agreed to consider other on-going projects — such as Everglades restoration — that could be impacted by its activities.

It’s important to note that the Corps’s proposed $4.6 billion surge-control project was not designed to eliminate or mitigate sea level rise flooding. Miami-Dade County has adopted its own strategy for dealing with sea level rise flooding. Some projects are already in the construction phase.

Disturbing Developments in Greenland and Antarctica Could Accelerate Sea Level Rise Flooding and Impact Coastal Real Estate Markets

Last week, scientists reported that humans have already pumped enough greenhouse gases into the atmosphere to cause enough global warming to guarantee that Greenland alone will contribute up to a foot of sea level rise. This week, scientists added to the bad news by reporting that Antarctica’s so called “doomsday glacier” is melting rapidly from the bottom and its collapse could potentially add a devastating 10 feet to ocean levels. And, as if that wasn’t bad enough, this week researchers also observed a heat wave melting Greenland’s ice sheet at a rate more typical of mid-July than the beginning of September, which means even more water running off the land to the ocean where it contributes to sea level rise.

Unfortunately for people trying to decide whether or not a coastal community is a good place to invest in real estate based on past and present sea level rise flooding, the rapid changes in Antarctica and Greenland could be sudden and decisive game changers. If ice sheets in Greenland or Antarctica continue to rapidly destabilize, events that cause sudden increases in sea level rise could become the new normal, just as we’ve seen climate change drive an increase in the number of what used to be called 100-year flooding events due to excessive rain at locations around the globe.

As humans continue to burn fossil fuels that pump massive amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, we’re sure to see upward revisions in the pace and height of sea level rise. This makes it very difficult for buyers who want to purchase a property using a 30-year mortgage in areas currently experiencing sea level rise flooding or that are at risk of flooding in the decades to come to make informed decisions. It also makes it difficult for current owners to decide whether or not they should continue to hold a property in an at-risk area.

Further compounding the risk for buyers and owners of real estate in coastal communities is the reality that scientists aren’t the only ones monitoring the factors that can speed up sea level rise. Insurers and mortgage providers who share the risk with buyers and owners are also keeping a keen eye on the latest developments and acting accordingly. Private insurers are abandoning some markets where sea level rise-intensified storm surge flooding poses too great a risk. And mortgage providers that have to peer thirty years in the future to see if they’re going to make a profit on a loan are being ever more careful in the loan approval process.

If insurers and/or mortgage providers decide that doing business in at-risk coastal communities isn’t worth it, this could throw local real estate markets into turmoil. The risk isn’t just theoretical. Florida, for example, considered the most at-risk state for sea level rise-intensified storm surge and so-called sea level rise nuisance flooding, is already seeing property insurers pull out of the market in part because they’re not solvent enough to assume the risk. This has left thousands of homeowners scrambling for new private insurance policies or turning to state-run Citizens Property Insurance, which was supposed to be the insurer of last resort. The state has been seeking solutions to the property insurance crisis that’s sure to worsen as sea level continues to rise.

Homeowners with federally backed mortgages are required to carry adequate property and flood insurance. If the insurance market collapses, most buyers will not be able to get loans. This in turn will cause properties to lose value.

Experts stress that there’s still time for humans to stop burning fossil fuels at a rate that contributes to global warming and sea level rise. There are steps being taken to rein it in, but whether effective action will be taken quickly enough to avert disaster in Greenland and Antarctica has yet to be seen. The ice sheets in both locations are definitely growing hazards that few people involved in coastal real estate can afford to ignore.

President Biden’s Historic Climate Change Bill Has a Fatal Flaw that Could Actually Cause More Global Warming and Sea Level Rise

Washington has always been a place that thrives on compromise. When it comes to global warming and sea level rise, however, the planet can’t afford legislation that takes us one step forward and one or more steps back, leaving us on-track for more environmental devastation than we’re already seeing.

But that’s what we got when President Biden signed a climate change measure in August that both encourages the expanded use of renewable energy sources and improved energy efficiency while also guaranteeing that oil and gas companies will have expanded drilling opportunities in the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska. More oil and natural gas means more fossil fuel burning which means the release of more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and, of course, more global warming and sea level rise.

On the positive side, Pres. Biden’s historic climate measure, which was tucked into the Inflation Reduction Act, invests a record $369 billion over the next decade in the war against global warming. Among the projects that will be funded are $128 billion in tax credits for businesses to shift to renewable sources of power, such as solar panels, $60 billion to promote the development of US-manufactured clean-energy technologies, such as electric vehicles and solar panels, and billions of dollars in the development of environmentally friendlier jet fuels. There are also billions of dollars in tax credits to help people purchase electric vehicles and improve household energy efficiency.

On the negative side, to get the climate-fighting measure passed in the Senate, Pres. Biden had to throw a bone to West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, who lives in a coal producing state and is a recipient of oil and gas donations. Up until this summer, Pres. Biden had cut back on opportunities for new offshore drilling to protect the climate. However, to get Sen. Manchin to sign off on the climate friendly aspects of the his bill, Pres. Biden had to mandate the leasing of vast areas of public lands and Gulf Coast tracts to oil and gas companies. In a perverse twist, whenever the Biden administration seeks to install solar and wind projects on public lands, it has to offer new oil and gas leases to energy companies.

With increased development and burning of fossil fuels tied directly to the development of large-scale renewable energy sources, like solar and wind farms, it’s unclear whether Pres. Biden’s much-heralded climate-fighting legislation will ever have its intended effect. Some analysts told PBS Newshour that they expect both oil and gas production and emissions will continue to grow, which is certainly bad news for people concerned about our warming planet and the environmental disasters we’re already seeing that are sure to grow worse in the years to come. It’s also possible that Pres. Biden sees this as a critical first step in committing the nation to battling climate change, and we’ll see additional legislation that offsets the giveaways to oil and gas concerns in the coming years. Or maybe his efforts to drive down the demand for fossil fuels will be so successful that new oil and gas leases won’t be necessary.

The most important point to keep in mind in our effort to combat climate change is that the we can’t fool the planet. If the end result of this legislation is that greenhouse gas emissions are not actually reduced but are allowed to stay the same or actually increase, the planet will follow the basic laws of science and continue to warm with devastating results for us all.

New Climate Report Confirms We’re Headed in the Wrong Direction on Global Warming and Sea Level Rise

The concentration of human-produced gases that are driving climate change and sea level rise reached record highs in 2021 and that’s bad news on several fronts, according to the State of the Climate Report issued this week by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

“The data presented here in this report are clear — we continue to see more compelling scientific evidence that climate change has global impacts and shows no sign of slowing,” said Rick Spinrad, Ph.D., NOAA’s Administrator, in an article posted on the agency’s website. “With many communities hit with 1,000 year floods, exceptional drought and historic heat this year, it shows that the climate crisis is not a future threat but something we must address today as we work to build a Climate-Ready Nation — and world — that is resilient to climate-driven extremes.”

Among the report’s notable finding:

  1. Earth’s greenhouse gases — carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide — were the highest on record, with carbon dioxide reaching levels not seen in a million years.
  2. The Earth continues to warm, with 2021 being the sixth warmest year on record and the last seven years being the warmest ever recorded since measurements began being taken in the latter part of the 1880s.
  3. Ocean heat content reached a new high in 2021, which is especially troublesome since 50 percent of sea level rise is due to the expansion of the ocean as the water heats up.
  4. For the tenth year in a row, global average sea level rose to a new record.

NOAA released the 32nd annual State of the Climate Report with the hope that the data will be used to spur the world into action and reduce the amount of fossil fuels — coal, oil and natural gas — burned around the world. The United Nations has been warning for years that nations must curtail greenhouse gas emissions or we will face global catastrophe. “The evidence is irrefutable: greenhouse gas emissions are choking our planet & placing billions of people in danger,” UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres tweeted last year. “Global heating is affecting every region on Earth, with many of the changes becoming irreversible. We must act decisively now to avert a climate catastrophe.”

Coastal communities and real estate owners in the U.S. are already spending billions of dollars to address coastal flooding due to sea level rise. Every year the world doesn’t reduce greenhouse gas emissions will add to the cost and destruction of property and the environment.

Coastal Real Estate Owners Shouldn’t Take Comfort In New Study That Predicts Greenland Ice Melt Will Raise Sea Level By Nearly a Foot

This past week, major news outlets published articles about a study by geologists from the National Geological Survey of Denmark who said that even if greenhouse gas emissions ceased today, Greenland’s glaciers would melt enough to contribute nearly a foot to average global sea level. In addition, the study published in the journal “Nature Climate Change” said if global warming continues at the current pace, Greenland could add more than two feet to global sea level.

The researchers didn’t give a specific time frame for the sea level rise, but it’s assumed it would occur gradually over the next 100 to 150 years. Their main point is that the amount of greenhouse gases — carbon dioxide and methane currently in the atmosphere — has created a situation where Greenland will release a minimum of nearly a foot of glacial melt into the ocean no matter what we do.

Buyers and owners of real estate located in coastal communities who think a foot of sea level rise isn’t much shouldn’t find comfort in the report. First of all, it’s important to consider that the foot on-average of sea level rise that has accumulated so far due to global warming is already causing costly flooding in many coastal communities, and the number, severity and distribution of these flooding events is growing every year.

Next, it’s important to note that Greenland is only one small piece of the sea level rise puzzle. According to scientists, ice melt in Greenland has only contributed about 20 percent of total sea level rise so far. Ice melt in Antarctica has also caused about 20 percent of the total. While global warming heating up the oceans and causing them to expand has contributed about 50 percent of all sea level rise. The remainder is coming from glaciers melting in mountainous areas and other sources. If all of these sources driving sea level rise also have minimum amounts of sea level rise “baked in” due to the amount of greenhouse gases already accumulated in the atmosphere, the total amount of sea level rise in the years to come will be much higher than the Greenland’s nearly one foot.

Finally, real estate owners in coastal communities under threat of sea level rise flooding have to consider that sea level rise has been accelerating for years, and today’s estimates of total sea level rise will likely be adjusted upwards in the years to come. This is especially true because human society has not been reducing the amount of fossil fuels — coal, oil and natural gas — it has been burning, so overall global warming will continue to increase as will sea level rise.

The bottom line remains: Real estate buyers and owners in coastal communities need to continue to perform due diligence — drawing information from many sources — to calculate their exposure to sea level rise flooding.

%d bloggers like this: