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.

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.

New New York City Sea Level Rise & Storm Flooding Maps are Useful for Real Estate Owners & Buyers

After Hurricane Sandy slammed New York City ten years ago, the city began taking climate change and sea level rise seriously. The superstorm flooded low lying areas, inundated the subway system and road tunnels, and caused an estimated $19 billion in economic losses. The remnants of Hurricane Ida, which similarly flooded large swaths of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania last year, was a powerful reminder that more needs to be done.

To prevent loss of life and property, New York City has been busy producing a series of interactive flooding maps that tell real estate owners and renters whether or not they are in areas at high risk of flooding. Just last week, the city released interactive maps designed to inform residents of their flood risk under different scenarios. According to the city, the New York City Stormwater Flood Maps “show moderate stormwater flooding scenarios under current and future sea level rise conditions, as well as an extreme stormwater flooding scenario under future conditions.”

In addition to the maps, the city has a “Rainfall Ready NYC Action Plan” webpage that gives people the information they need to stay safe while infrastructure is built or upgraded to better cope with sea level rise flooding, more intense rainstorms, and more powerful tropical storms and hurricanes that are the results of climate change. The Action Plan includes information on how to prepare for storms, how monitor storm conditions, how to respond to storms, and how to recover from them.

The maps the city is producing are of great value to real estate owners and prospective buyers in the affected areas. Current owners can use them to not only to prepare their properties to withstand sea level rise and storms, but also to determine if the investment is worth it. Prospective buyers can use the maps to decide if they really want to get involved in real estate in an area that’s currently experiencing flooding or at risk of flooding in the future. This is critical information since properties that flood can lose value or appreciate at a slower rate than comparable properties in safe areas.

New York City’s proactive efforts to warn residents of the risks of flooding caused by climate change driven sea level rise and supercharged storms is admirable and should be replicated by cities and towns all along the US coastline. Used properly, they can help real estate owners and prospective buyers to make informed decisions that protect their financial futures.

US Supreme Court’s Ruling Limiting the EPA’s Ability to Regulate Greenhouse Gases is a Blow to Sea Level Rise Real Estate

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision today to limit the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) ability to regulate the release of greenhouse gases by electrical power plants is a serious blow to efforts to fight overall global warming and the resultant sea level rise that threatens billions of dollars of real estate all along the U.S. coastline.

Scientists based their latest estimates on the amount of sea level rise U.S. coastal communities will experience between now and the end of the century on the assumption that regulators, like the EPA, would be able to force electrical power plants and other major greenhouse gas emitters to reduce their annual output. With no oversight from the EPA, the court is saying that the American public has to rely on Congress to pass specific legislation restricting emissions from individual sources. The reality of this situation is that Congress is heavily under the influence of fossil fuel — coal, oil and natural gas — producer campaign contributions, so getting meaningful regulations passed will be nearly impossible.

Where does this leave us? Quite frankly, living in a world that’s already overheating and experiencing longer, hotter and more deadly heatwaves, mega-droughts that threaten the very existence of cities in the American West, supercharged tropical storms, hurricanes and local rain events that bring devastating flooding, calamitous wildfires, and rising seas that are inundating coastal real estate.

The Supreme Court’s decision limiting the EPA’s ability to regulate greenhouse gas emissions will accelerate global warming. This will result in faster ocean expansion and ice melting in Greenland and Antarctica and, ultimately, sea level rise at the high end of expert forecasts. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration website: “Current and future emissions matter. About 2 feet or sea level rise along the U.S. coastline is increasingly likely between 2020 and 2100 because of emissions to date. Failing to curb future emissions could cause an additional 1.5-5 feet of rise for a total of 3.5-7 feet by the end of this century.”

It’s important to keep in mind that many coastal communities are already spending millions of dollars combatting the sea level rise we’re already experiencing. Every additional inch between now and the 2100 will add to the burden and damage more and more public and private real estate and infrastructure. For example, if saltwater invades the water table and fouls freshwater wells, some cities and towns will find it hard to continue to exist.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s EPA decision is dangerous for the U.S. and the entire planet. The best we can do to protect our lives and property and the lives and property of others is to vote only for candidates who who are prepared to ignore old world energy producers and join the fight against climate change, global warming and sea level rise.

New “HazardAware” Website Gives Gulf Coast Real Estate Owners, Buyers Info on Risks Posed By Sea Level Rise and Climate Change

In the age of climate change and sea level rise, one of the most difficult tasks for real estate owners and buyers is to evaluate a property’s risk of damage from ever-worsening natural disasters. Experts from several universities have developed a new website called HazardAware to make the process of evaluation a little easier in Florida and coastal area counties in Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas.

When real estate owners and buyers enter an address in a search window on the site, they’re given “A home’s HazardReady Score” which tells them whether a home is more or less resilient to natural disasters than average. They’re also given a wealth of data on a home’s, neighborhood’s and community’s risks for certain types of hazards, such as wind, tornadoes, flooding and hail, and a general analysis of the threat sea level rise poses to a property.

HazardAware also assists real estate owners and buyers by telling them what questions they should consider about a given property and what they can do to reduce their exposure to certain risks.

When I ran a couple of addresses that I’m familiar with on the HazardAware website, I received four pages of thought-provoking information, including links where I could get even more information about climate change, sea level rise, insurance and other relevant topics. (Oddly enough, for both properties located in South Florida and Southwest Florida HazardAware listed “Extreme Cold” as among the top four hazards based on insurance loss, which seemed a little suspicious.)

HazardAware also has a section that discussed the properties’ risk of sea level rise flooding based on a their status under FEMA’s Coastal High Hazard Areas program, but it didn’t really delve too deeply into the issue. At this point, real estate buyers and owners involved in property located near the coast may want to increase their knowledge of a property’s, neighborhood’s and community’s sea level rise flooding risk by visiting Climate Central and using its excellent hazard maps.

As with all online tools, HazardAware is a great place to gather general information about a property’s risk of damage from natural hazards, such as sea level rise, but owners and buyers still need to perform additional due diligence. For example, they need to verify information provided by the online tools and find out the specific insurance claims history of a property. They also need to further research the threat the natural hazard currently poses to a property, neighborhood and community, what is being done to address the threat, and how it will impact how much they will have to pay for property maintenance, insurance, and taxes, and, ultimately, how it will impact their property value.

Another critically important factor to research is the health of the loCAL mortgage and insurance industries. If providers of mortgages and/or insurance are struggling in an area, this could be a warning that the local real estate market is in jeopardy.

New Report Lists Boston Area Climate Change and Sea Level Rise Threats

Longer, hotter heatwaves, contaminated drinking water wells, and more coastal flooding are on tap for the Boston area due to climate change and sea level rise between now and the end of the century. That’s according to a study of 101 cities and towns in the Boston area released today by UMass Boston and the Greater Boston Research Advisory Group (CBRAG).

Among the findings included in the Climate Change Impacts and Projections for the Greater Boston Area report:

  1. Average annual temperatures could range from 3 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit higher by the end of this century compared with the start of the century.
  2. Days over 90 degrees could increase from an average of 10 to as many as 80 a year.
  3. Traditional food products, such as cranberries, maple syrup and lobsters and shell fish, could be lost. (Lobsters and some fish are already moving north to escape warmer ocean water.)
  4. Reduced snowpack and faster evaporation due to higher temperatures could lead to a reduction in groundwater needed for drinking water, agriculture and industry.
  5. Sea level rise could contaminate coastal drinking water wells by forcing salt water into fresh groundwater aquifers.
  6. Sea level rise could also boost the number of days Boston experiences sunny day or “nuisance flooding” from approximately 15 days a year to over 180 days.
  7. Quicker, more intense rain storms combined with higher seas and groundwater tables could lead to even worse flooding in coastal areas.
  8. Less hurricanes are expected to hit the region, but the ones that do are likely to be stronger and more damaging.

Researchers say the actual outcomes of their predictions will be influenced by the world’s ability to reach net zero emissions by 2050. Commenting on the report, Boston Mayor Michelle Wu said: “We know that the window of time to act on climate change is closing quickly and it is critical to align our policies and programs with the latest science. The CBRAG report analyzes Boston’s climate risk projections so we can make the most informed decisions on how to protect our communities from unavoidable impacts while mitigating emissions that contribute to climate change.”

Boston and the surrounding communities can use the report to map out their response to climate change and sea level rise challenges. Real estate owners and buyers in the affected region should stay up on the proposed solutions as they can impact their taxes, access to potable water, operational life of their septic systems where used, quality of life, and, ultimately, property value.

“Above-Normal” Hurricane Season Forecast Means Coastal Real Estate Owners and Buyers Need to Consider Insurance Options NOW

An ongoing La Nina and above-average Atlantic Ocean water temperatures are leading the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to forecast an above-normal hurricane season. “NOAA is forecasting a likely range of 14 to 21 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which 6 to 10 could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including 3 to 6 major hurricanes (category 3, 4 or 5; with winds of 111 mph or higher), according to an agency news release.

With this extreme threat level, owners of coastal real estate and even those well inland in the Eastern U.S. and Hawaii who could be impacted by flood and wind damage from a degrading storm, need to review their insurance coverage. Considering scientists are reporting that global warming and sea level rise are super-charging hurricanes and tropical storms, people who own real estate in at-risk regions should put this on the top of their to-do lists.

Lenders require homeowners with mortgages to purchase basic dwelling coverage that covers the cost of repairs to a damaged home. In areas vulnerable to hurricanes and flooding, lenders may require special windstorm and flood insurance.

Considering that FEMA’s flood maps are notoriously outdated and homes well outside the designated flood zones have been damaged by flood waters in past storms, it’s important for homeowners in areas with even a seemingly remote chance of getting hit by floods to consider purchasing coverage through the National Flood Insurance Program. For example, in August 2017, thousands of homes outside the FEMA-designated primary flood zone flooded when Hurricane Harvey rolled over the Houston area.

With insurance costs skyrocketing in many coastal areas due to increased claims from past hurricanes and storms, fraud and other reasons, some homeowners are going without insurance. They tend to fall in two camps those who are gambling that their properties will not get hit by a hurricane or tropical storm and those who believe they have enough reserve funds to cover the cost of repairs if they do.

These homeowners need to be aware that waiting until a storm is likely headed their way to purchase insurance won’t work. Flood insurance purchased under the National Flood Insurance Program won’t actually kick in until 30 days after a policy is purchased. In addition, if a tropical storm or hurricane watch or warning is issued in a 16,000 square mile box around Florida, the state’s Citizens Property Insurance Corporation and most private insurance companies will not accept applications for new coverage. Insurers in other states may have their own last-minute purchase limitations. There’s also a risk that providers may not be able to process applications made before a storm in a timely manner.

When property owners are reviewing their insurance policies, they should also revisit their coverage amounts. With inflation, even $250,000 in coverage won’t provide as much repair and rebuilding purchasing power as it used to. They should also double-check their deductibles to make sure they’re still in line with their financial resources.

Evaluating homeowners, flood and wind insurance can be drudge work under the best of circumstances. However, with the high risk of storms and recent years of climate change super-charged storms wreaking record destruction on coastal real estate and points far inland, not doing your homework can lead to serious negative consequences should a storm hit your property.

2021 Was a Record Year for Sea Level Rise, That’s Bad News for Coastal Real Estate

This week, the the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) reported that four key climate change indicators reached record highs in 2021. The amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, ocean heat, ocean acidification, and sea level rise all broke records. The WMO also reported that the years 2015-2021 were the warmest since the industrial revolution–with 2016 being the hottest on record.

Professor Petteri Taalas, WMO Secretary-General, commented, “Our climate is changing before our eyes.”

In 2021, humans burned more fossil fuels — coal, oil and natural gas — which released more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The global warming we’re creating is what’s driving the sea level rise that’s already flooding coastal real estate.

The most disturbing findings for those who own or are interested in purchasing real estate vulnerable to sea level rise flooding: Ocean heating hit a record high in 2021, with the last two decades showing the greatest rate of temperature gains. (Ocean heating and expansion are a major driver of sea level rise.) In addition the rate of sea level rise is accelerating. It increased at nearly .18 of an inch per year from 2013-2021, a rate more than double the increase measured each year between 1993 and 2002.

There’s no sign in 2022 that humans are going to break their addiction to fossil fuels. According to basic science, that means the globe is going to continue to warm and sea level is going to continue to rise at an ever-accelerating rate. Flooding will, too.

Coastal real estate owners who are betting that they’ll be able to sell before the problem impacts their property value need to factor the rapid changes taking place on air, land and sea into their calculations.

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