What will Coastal Cities Look Like if We Don’t Curtail Greenhouse Gas Emissions? Take a Look:

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then the collection of photos Climate Central — a nonprofit news organization — touched-up to show what sea level rise flooding will do to coastal cities around the world if we don’t cut back on greenhouse gas emissions should leave you downright speechless.

The environmental group recently published before and after photos of the sea level rise flooding 184 sites from Dhaka Bangladesh to Charleston, South Carolina and everywhere in between will experience at varying levels of global warming from the preferred target of 1.5 degrees centigrade all the way up to 4 degrees centigrade. The collection is published under the title “Picturing Our Future” and tagged “Climate and energy choices this decade will influence how high sea levels rise for hundreds of years. Which future will we choose?”

Researchers used new global elevation data from a study titled “Unprecedented threats to cities from multi-century sea level rise” published on the IOPScience website to generate the photos. The study itself states “a portion of human-caused carbon dioxide emissions will stay in the atmosphere for hundreds of years, raising temperatures and sea levels globally.” They go on to explain that globally, we’re falling short of what needs to be done to avoid the worst case sea level rise flooding scenario. “Most nations’ emissions-reduction policies and actions do not seem to reflect this long-term threat,” they wrote, ” as collectively they point toward widespread permanent inundation of many developed areas.”

It’s critically important to note here that sea level rise isn’t a future threat, it’s happening now in coastal cities across the U.S. and around the world. In the US, federal, state and local government entities are already investing billions of dollars in funds to raise seawalls, roads, water and sewer systems, and other critical infrastructure. And these efforts are seen as merely a tiny fraction of what will actually be needed to fend off floodwaters in the years and decades to come. Many real estate owners in coastal areas that are experiencing flooding are already having to pay out of pocket to raise seawalls and elevate their houses. In areas that can’t be saved, some states are offering buy-outs to property owners.

The bottom line is today and tomorrow we will be dealing with sea level rise flooding. The decisions we make today will have short-term and long-term implications. Educating yourself on sea level rise flooding has never been more important.

Moon Wobble will Increase Sea Level Rise Flooding in the 2030s

Sea level rise and sea level rise flooding have been gradually increasing for decades, but scientists are predicting a noticeable jump in the next decade. Why? A predictable wobble in the moon’s orbit will place Earth’s tide-driving companion closer to the planet from 2030 to 2040. A closer moon means higher high tides and lower low tides.

When you combine the moon’s stronger gravitational pull on the oceans with climate change-driven sea level rise, we can expect to see even more sea level rise flooding than we’re now witnessing in coastal communities. In fact, experts are predicting the moon wobble will result in sea level rise flooding conditions that were not expected until the end of this century. For example, scientists estimate San Francisco will experience five times more high-tide flood days in the next decade than it does now.

To arrive at their disturbing conclusion, NASA researchers reviewed data from tide gauges located in coastal communities in every state and territory but Alaska, which, due to its position on the globe, is not expected to face higher tides due to the moon wobble. The research was published in the journal Nature Climate Change.

Buyers and owners of real estate currently experiencing sea level rise flooding or located in communities that flood need to add the wobble into their long-term property ownership decisions. Flooding is already forcing the government and property owners to spend billions of dollars to fend off floodwaters and protect critical infrastructure. A sudden leap will only worsen property damage and result in higher outlays for maintenance, taxes and insurance.

My Shocking American Climate Change Road Trip is a Call for Action Now

Anyone who doesn’t believe climate change, global warming, and sea level rise are real needs to see the shocking sights I saw during a summer road trip across America.

From early July through early August, I tent camped my way up the Appalachian Mountains, across the mid-part of the country, and all over the West, including Utah, Nevada, California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Wyoming. In ten short weeks, I saw:

*A Lake Powell, Utah, boat ramp high and dry due to the mega-drought;

*Houses in Pacifica, California, dangerously close to toppling into the Pacific Ocean because of sea level rise-driven erosion;

*Bone dry Lassen Volcanic National Park, California, before a wildfire burned through half its forests;

*Mount Shasta, California, nearly snowless with smoky fires burning on its stark gray flanks;

*The drought-stricken Lake Shasta reservoir so low the exposed orange and yellow banks were blinding;

*An enormous mushroom cloud billowing over the Bootleg Fire — Oregon’s third worst wildfire ever;

*Mount Rainier, Washington, snow-starved, its glaciers melting due to an unusual early summer heatwave;

*An elementary school being built inland in La Push, Washington, on the Olympic Peninsula because sea level rise and stronger Pacific storms threatened the historic coastal village; and

*Endless, hazy wildfire smoke filled skies.

Scientists have accumulated an enormous body of research that says the heatwaves, mega-drought, stronger, more damaging storms and wildfires, sea level rise, receding glaciers, and depleted reservoirs we’re seeing today are all related to climate change and global warming, which is going to get progressively worse in the decades to come. What I saw with my own eyes says they’re right.

The real question now isn’t the science and it isn’t whether or not climate change is harming the world around us today. The science is sound and climate change/global warming is hitting us on many fronts today. The real question now is do we have the will to act to save the planet for our generation, future generations, and the wildlife that deserves a functioning Earth as much as we do.

In this video, I take you with me on my shocking American climate change road trip and propose five steps we can all take today to fight this global threat:

  1. Only elect candidates who believe we need to combat climate change now.
  2. Money talks. Buy from companies that not only talk about the need to fight climate change but are taking action now.
  3. Buy the most energy efficient vehicles we can afford.
  4. Buy the most energy efficient homes and businesses we can afford or take steps, and practice energy conservation by switching off TVs, computers, lights and other electronics when we’re not using them.
  5. Eat a mostly plant-based diet to help reduce the amount of energy needed to produce food.

Watching the planet go up in flames isn’t an option. We all need to act NOW.

Take the Sea Level Rise Real Estate Quiz

Flooding is the most frequent and costly natural disaster in the U.S. Unfortunately, it’s also among the hardest to detect for real estate buyers. That’s due to the fact that between bouts of flooding — including sea level rise flooding — properties, roads and neighborhoods can appear high and dry.

The sea level rise real estate quiz video is meant to show buyers how hard it is to tell where flooding has occurred. The videos clips with dry properties were recorded during the dry season in South Florida. The clips with flooding taken at the same locations were recorded during fall king tide season, when the Earth, Sun, and Moon were in a certain proximity that promotes higher than normal tides.

A small but growing percentage of properties located right along the beach and Intracoastal Waterway flood several times a month from August through December. This type of sea level rise flooding is occurring in many communities along the Atlantic, Gulf, and Pacific coastlines. The situation is getting worse every year as the ocean continues to rise.

Clearly, buyers purchasing coastal properties need to ask sellers, real estate agents, neighbors, public officials, and flood insurance providers if the property of interest experiences sea level rise flooding. The laws governing the disclosure of flooding vary widely from state to state, so buyers need to consult multiple sources to get a complete picture before submitting a real estate contract.

Sea Level Rise & Real Estate: What happens when whispered truths are spoken out loud?

Sea level rise flooding is rapidly transforming from an issue that was whispered about in many coastal communities — for fear mere mention would tank the local real estate market — to one that’s appearing on the front pages of major newspapers. This week alone the Miami Herald featured articles titled “‘Now, It’s About Elevation’: Buying a South Florida home in the era of sea level rise” and “Miami Beach residents want sea level rise fixes. But finding the right spot is a battle”.

The first article features interviews with a real estate broker and other experts who commented on how higher elevation properties in the flat, flood-prone South Florida landscape are becoming the most valued by middle-class buyers as sea level rises. (Apparently, wealthy buyers can afford to absorb the loss if their properties are flooded.) The second article examines the growing NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) movement among residents in Miami Beach as the city struggles to find a location for a much-needed pump station that threatens to sully residents’ views.

Both articles are well-reported and matter-of-fact about the many complications sea level rise flooding poses to people involved in South Florida real estate. Reading the pieces made me think about how far we’ve come toward acknowledge the problem and what this tide change (pardon the pun) in awareness means to buyers, sellers, owners and real estate agents.

One thing’s clear: As buyers become more educated about the risk of sea level rise flooding, they are becoming more sophisticated about where they purchase property in coastal communities. An article published last December in the Charleston, SC, Post & Courier put it bluntly: “Downtown Charleston house hunters ask about home’s flooding history first”. With flooding an ever-worsening problem, “Does this property flood?” is sure to become the first question buyers ask in coastal communities all along the Atlantic, Pacific and Gulf of Mexico.

This reality is going to force owners to pay more attention to sea level rise to make sure that they get out before their property begins to lose value due to the direct flooding of their property or their neighborhood. Sellers are going to have to be very careful that they fill out seller’s disclosure forms in accordance with their state’s laws. (At this point, state seller’s disclosure laws range from full flood disclosure to none at all.) And real estate agents are going to have to make sure that they’re aware of which neighborhoods and properties in their farm area experience sea level rise flooding, that they fulfill their obligation to disclose the flooding to buyers in accordance with their state’s disclosure law and, if they’re a Realtor ™, their association’s Code of Ethics, and that they advise their sellers to comply with their state’s disclosure requirements. Conferring with real estate attorneys is always a good idea as there have been cases where real estate brokers and agents have had to pay out large sums of money for mishandling flooding-related issues.

Most Americans’ greatest investment is their homes. As buyers become savvier about sea level rise flooding and the many ways it can impact their home and their financial futures, it’s going to become harder to sell them a property that’s experiencing flooding now, soon to experience flooding, or difficult to access due to flooded roads. With this in mind, everyone involved in coastal real estate has to keep up to speed on this creeping catastrophe to make smart real estate decisions.

Kindle E-Reader Version of “7 Sea Level Rise Real Estate Questions” Now Available!

Great news! The Kindle E-reader version of “7 Sea Level Rise Real Estate Questions for Buyers, Sellers, Owners & Real Estate Agents” is now available on Amazon.com. The Kindle version joins the paperback version which was published last week.

The point of “7 Sea Level Rise Real Estate Questions for Buyers, Sellers, Owners & Real Estate Agents” is to educate all parties about this creeping catastrophe and to show them how to perform due diligence — gather information from multiple sources — BEFORE they make real estate decisions. This is critically important to buyers in coastal communities because they are purchasing homes that actually experience sea level rise flooding and they don’t know it until the water shows up at their doors; sellers are selling properties without knowing their legal obligation to disclose flooding to buyers; owners think the flooding won’t affect them until they can’t drive on and off their property because the streets are flooded; and real estate agents are selling properties that flood — usually unaware of the problem — and they could face costly lawsuits.

I spent hundred of hours researching, writing, and editing the 2021 edition and ended up with 177 pages jam-packed with facts, charts and photos. The book is beefed up with chapters that cover: what happened over the last year; the relationship between the burning of fossil fuels, global warming, and sea level rise; what happens, in detail, when sea level rise flooding strikes a community, a neighborhood and an individual property; the pros and cons of the solutions communities and property owners are using to address sea level rise flooding; and how to research whether or not a property is currently experiencing sea level rise flooding or is soon to be inundated.

When readers finish “7 Sea Level Rise Real Estate Questions for Buyers, Sellers, Owners & Real Estate Agents” they will have a comprehensive understanding of how sea level rise flooding works and why everyone involved in real estate in coastal communities needs to pay attention to it before it threatens their financial futures. The truth is: sea level rise flooding is happening now and it will worsen in the future. Check out the book today!

PS: Now that the book is published, I’ll get back to posting the latest developments regarding global warming, sea level rise flooding, and real estate. Please check back often! Thank you!

2021 Edition of “7 Sea Level Rise Real Estate Questions for Buyers, Sellers, Owners & Real Estate Agents” Coming Soon!

Sorry I haven’t updated the site lately, but I’ve actually been busy writing the 2021 edition of “7 Sea Level Rise Real Estate Questions for Buyers, Sellers, Owners & Real Estate Agents.”

Managing the threat of Covid-19 threw me off my intended schedule, which was to release the book in November or December of 2020, but I’m back on track to bring you a comprehensive look at the risks involved in purchasing real estate in coastal communities that are currently experiencing sea level rise flooding or will have to confront the challenge in the years and decades to come. The new edition includes the latest developments regarding sea level rise science and the approach federal, state, and local governments are taking to address the flooding. It also has chapters that describe in detail how sea level rise flooding impacts communities, neighborhoods and specific properties, and what buyers, sellers, owners, and real estate agents need to do about it.

Those of you who purchased the 2020 edition of “7 Sea Level Rise Real Estate Questions” on Amazon.com will find a lot of new information presented clearly and concisely. The book will be of special value to buyers, sellers, owners, and real estate agents operating in coastal areas who want to make informed decisions regarding real estate transactions in areas confronting this creeping threat.

I will update the site when the book is available in paperback or Kindle versions, which should be in about two weeks. Thank you for your patience.

Once the book is released, I will get back on track to updating this site on a regular basis with the latest reports regarding sea level rise flooding and real estate.

Tropical Storm Eta Gives South Florida Homeowners a Wake Up Call: Climate Change and Sea Level Rise Flooding are for Real

Tropical Storm Eta made landfall in the mid-Florida Keys, but it left a lasting impression on homeowners 90 miles to the north in South Florida. Many who owned real estate inland away from the coastline in what they thought were high and dry neighborhoods in Palm Beach County, Broward County, and Miami-Dade County woke up on Monday, November 9, to flooded homes, streets and businesses. Climate experts are already saying the devastation is a result of a dangerous confluence of soils already saturated by repeated rain events in October, a tropical storm with heavy rains super-charged by climate change, and a drainage system based on gravity that’s operating less efficiently due to sea level rise.

Bryan Norcross, a hurricane specialist at Local 10 in Miami, said the region has experienced this type of flooding before, just not in recent years. “I’ve been dealing with hurricanes since the 1980s and that’s evolved into discussing how climate and hurricanes fit together,” he said in an article posted on the station’s website. “The fact that sea level is rising and rising a little more than just a half an inch, an inch at a time, that makes our drainage system work more poorly.” In other words, when there’s less difference between the elevation of water pooling on land and water in the drainage canal system and ocean level, the harder it is for the system to move water off the land and into the ocean.

In an opinion piece titled “Historic Eta flooding in Florida areas thought to be drier proves we’re all vulnerable,” Miami Herald columnist Fabiola Santiago described what it was like living in a neighborhood that flooded. She said the experience at her home in Miami Lakes, an inland community she thought was not vulnerable to flooding, was like living on an island. Even if a resident’s house and street weren’t flooded, they were still impacted by the flooding because they couldn’t travel far before they encountered a flooded street.

“If your street didn’t flood,” she wrote, “you still couldn’t get out of your neighborhood because other thoroughfares did flood. Streets were dangerously deeper than they seemed at first.” She also worried that she would lose power and/or internet service due to the flooding.

Santiago’s final paragraphs are a cautionary tale for all who are considering purchasing real estate in coastal areas vulnerable to or now experiencing sea level rise flooding: “Global warming is real folks, not just a concept put out there that only concerns the scientists. Eta’s rains are here to show us just how up close and personal climate change can get in all of South Florida.”

Touring storm damage in my own city in southern Palm Beach County, I saw many streets that normally experience sea level rise flooding, especially in the fall “king tide” months, flooded to a higher level than I’d ever witnessed. Streets that residents needed to travel to get from their homes were bisected by floodwaters rendering them useless. This is a major frustration to many property owners in my area. Experts say property values in areas that experience sea level rise flooding are already appreciating at a slower rate than properties that don’t.

Tropical Storm Eta’s nasty surprise is a reminder to all property owners and buyers that they need to perform due diligence and know the risk of flooding to homes and businesses so they can make an informed decision regarding real estate ownership. It’s also a reminder that they can’t just focus on a given property or neighborhood, flooding in the wider community and region can also impact their ability to get around town and the costs of maintenance, insurance, and taxes, as communities are forced to invest ever more in efforts to prevent flooding events.

NPR Shines a Spotlight on the Government’s Failure to Require Sellers to Disclose Sea Level Rise Flooding Risks

It’s a tough nut to crack, but it shouldn’t be. Real estate buyers should have a right to full disclosure of the risk sea level rise flooding (or any flooding for that matter) poses to a home before they submit an offer. But, in reality, with no effective national disclosure policy and a hodge-podge of mostly toothless state laws, real estate buyers are too often left unaware of the risk until floodwaters show up in their neighborhood or at their doors.

This point was hit home in a recent article titled “Undisclosed: Most Homebuyers And Renters Aren’t Warned About Flood or Wildfire Risk” published on National Public Radio’s website. Reporters Ryan Kellman, Rebecca Hersher, and Lauren Sommer used real-life experiences of people living in flood and fire prone areas to explain how buyers and even long-time owners have faced damaged or destroyed homes due to a threat they didn’t know about or didn’t fully appreciate. Reading their article gives you a real sense of the human cost of America’s failure to disclose a property’s risk of falling to natural disasters.

The problems examined in the NPR article have been explored in great detail on this website and in our book “7 Sea Level Rise Real Estate Questions for Buyers, Sellers, Owners & Real Estate Agents”. Essentially, buyers are left at a disadvantage when purchasing property in a flood-prone area because: 1) There is no federal law that mandates seller disclosure of sea level rise flooding risk; 2) State laws, in most cases, don’t require either the disclosure of any and/or enough information for buyers to make an informed decision before submitting an offer; 3) The people buyers count on for the information — including sellers, real estate agents, mortgage providers and insurers — aren’t required to warn buyers that they’re purchasing a home that is subject to or could soon be subject to sea level rise flooding; and 4) The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) produces maps that identify flood zones that are notoriously out of date and do not take into consideration sea level rise flooding. This leaves many buyers ill-informed when making decisions that will impact their lives, livelihoods and financial futures.

The risk to homeowners and buyers purchasing property in coastal areas can’t be overstated. In many coastal communities, neighborhoods, roads and properties are already being inundated by sea level rise flooding. As the NPR article states, many homeowners have inadequate insurance that will fall short of making them whole should they experience flooding. In some areas repeated flooding is so bad states are setting aside millions of dollars to buy-out and demolish homes that repeatedly flood to stop the expense of the rebuild-destruction cycle.

Taxpayers, too, pay a price for the current situation. When properties flood and the federal government pays out billions of dollars for repairs the funds ultimately come out of their pockets.

The only fair solution to this problem is the passage of tougher national and state flood disclosure laws. Alice Hill, who led disaster planning efforts at the President Barack Obama’s National Security Council, told NPR that the federal government should take responsibility for giving Americans information about flood risk so they can make informed decisions.

Until that day comes, buyers and owners need to practice due diligence and determine a property’s flood risk to protect themselves from the expense and inconvenience of a flooding event. This entails putting on their detective’s hat and taking steps such as studying FEMA flood maps and asking residents, local real estate agents, mortgage providers, insurers, home inspectors and government planning officials if they’re aware of flooding in and around the property of interest. Researching media reports can also be of value. Throughout the fact-gathering process, buyers and property owners must fight the urge to rely on a single source for information as there are shortcomings to all of them.

A final issue to factor in when evaluating real estate opportunities in coastal communities is future sea level rise projections. Properties that don’t flood today, might flood over the course of a 30-year mortgage as sea level continues to rise.

Southeast Florida County Governments Urge Real Estate Developers to Get Involved in Sea Level Rise Resilience Efforts

Real estate developers rarely take the long-view when they’re considering new projects. They see their role in the economy as simply planning, building, and selling projects at the greatest return on investment. As a result, in Southeast Florida, billions of dollars worth of real estate development has proceeded even in areas known to be at risk of — or currently experiencing — sea level rise flooding. The Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact — a partnership between Miami-Dade County, Broward County, Palm Beach County, and Monroe County — believes it’s time for real estate developers to recognize the larger threat sea level poses to the region and their industry and to get involved in mitigation efforts for the good of everyone.

To make their case, the Compact used a state grant to pay the Urban Land Institute (ULI) — a group comprised of 45,000 real estate and urban development professionals interested in creating sustainable communities — to assess the costs and benefits in cold hard cash of implementing projects now to address sea level rise flooding, which is expected to worsen as up to 40 inches of sea level rise accumulates by 2070.

ULI recently released its findings in a report titled “The Business Case for Resilience in Southeast Florida.” In it, researchers concluded that tens of billions of dollars will be lost over the next 50 years if the region doesn’t invest in resiliency, such as elevating structures and roads and infrastructure and building higher seawalls and berms, now. The report specifically estimates that spending $22.6 billion on flood mitigation between now and 2070 could prevent $56 billion in losses over the same period.

ULI said its approach to drafting the report was to view sea level rise not as a net negative but as an opportunity to actually build the economy by investing in resiliency today, an effort that would create business opportunities and new jobs. In a report summary ULI said: “The findings … identify opportunities for the real estate industry to achieve a positive return on investment by futureproofing developments and investing in community wide resilience infrastructure over time to build incremental solutions that protect people and property and grow the economy of Southeast Florida in years to come.”

The report, which is meant to convince business interests to join the sea level rise resilience movement, isn’t perfect however. It overlooks one of the most seemingly insurmountable problems unique to South Florida: The region’s real estate is built on porous limestone, so even if you block the rising seas with higher seawalls and other structures at the coast, the seawater will still migrate beneath the surface and cause flooding along the coast and well inland.

Despite this flaw, the researchers said the investment in resilience is worth it. They estimate Miami-Dade County will benefit from a 9 to 1 return on investment, Broward County 2 to 1, and Palm Beach County 1.3 to 1. Unfortunately, they did not see any benefit for Monroe County, which covers the Florida Keys. The report said the Keys population is too small to benefit compared with its highly populated neighboring counties to the north. Rhonda Haas, resilience officer for Monroe County, told the Miami Herald: “We are probably going to have to spend more per resident for resilience and that’s okay. Just because we have a lower rate of return on that investment, that doesn’t mean the Keys should not make the investment. We should and we are.”

The preface to the report notes that there are no easy answers to climate adaptation but all interests need to get involved. It also warns developers that not participating in mitigating sea level rise flooding could lead to negative consequences beyond their control. “Developers have control over the confines of their own parcels,” it states, “but they could be faced with negative consequences from reduced investor interest and lack of financing and insurance –if this is the case, it may be too late to recover. Though financial assets are at risk, this is also the time for the real estate industry to coordinate with the public sector on resilience planning initiatives and co-create new models for partnerships, policy, and funding to help the region continue to thrive.”

The lesson from the report for everyone living and operating businesses in coastal communities in Southeast Florida and everywhere else is that we’re all in this together and saving our lifestyles and livelihoods will take a team effort.