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.

Does the 1.5 Degrees Celsius Global Warming Goal Even Matter Anymore?

Headlines abound this week that the world has a 50% chance of surpassing the dreaded 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) increase in global temperature since pre-industrial levels. The media is reporting on a World Meteorological Organization (WMO) prediction released Monday that the globe could hit that mark briefly in 2026, which, the experts say, could give us a sampling of what living with catastrophic climate change would be like.

Reading the reports, I had to wonder, do the scientists, journalists, and public officials who worship in the church of 1.5 degrees Celsius, you know, ever actually go outdoors or read the headlines about what’s already happening in the world due to climate change? When the WMO was crunching its numbers and issuing its report, wildfires were ripping through New Mexico at an intensity usually experienced later in fire season, the Western US was pondering life without water and electricity from Lake Powell and Lake Mead, Southern California was dreading the possibility that it could run out of water in August, Northern California was concerned that saltwater could back up into the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, which would pollute a freshwater source millions of residents and farmers depend on, houses were falling into the ocean in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, hundreds of millions of people in India and Pakistan were enduring a two-month-old deadly heatwave, and France was preparing for a record drought. We’re even starting to see climate migration as Californians move out of their state to escape the heat, wildfires and water restrictions. This is just a partial list of the catastrophes we’re already experiencing, and, according to scientists, we’re only 1.1 degrees Celsius over the pre-industrial temperature benchmark.

The WMO report was released a week after Science magazine published a curious report with the headline: “Use of ‘too hot’ climate models exaggerates impacts of global warming”. The article, the U.N., which for years has been sounding the alarm about climate change, was subtitled “U.N. report authors say researchers should avoid suspect models”. Their concern? That studies that predict the world will get hot faster than expected “threatens to undermine the credibility of climate science, some researchers fear.” Let me get this straight: The world is getting torched now and their biggest worry is “the credibility of climate science?”

I think UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres hit the mark in March when he said: “Despite growing pledges of climate action, global emissions are at an all-time high. They continue to rise. The latest science shows that climate disruption is causing havoc in every region – right now. We are in a race against time to limit global heating to 1.5 degrees. And we are losing.”

As someone who lives in South Florida, where sea level rise is already flooding many coastal communities and lurking just under the manicured lawns and streets in others, and who spent last summer camping his way across America to see firsthand how climate change is already impacting other parts of the country, I can tell you with great certainty that aggressive science isn’t the world’s biggest problem, current climate catastrophe is. During my adventure, I choked on smoke from wildfires ripping through the Rockies, saw Lake Powell shockingly depleted of water, houses teetering on cliff’s edge in Pacifica, Lake Shasta’s water way below its blaze orange banks, a gray dome where Mount Shasta would normally be covered in snow and even worse the northeast side of the mountain ablaze, a fire burning at a distance in Lassen National Peak that consumed half the surrounding forest after I left, the mushroom cloud signature of the Boot Fire in Oregon, and Mount Rainier low on snow after a record heatwave. Running from fire and smoke was an essential part of my summer vacation.

To me, the science I’m reading is out of whack with the reality I’m witnessing with my own eyes. I’m beyond worrying about 1.5 degrees Celsius and temperatures above that mark because we’ve already reached the point of global catastrophe.

There’s a lot of talk about how people are feeling frightened and helpless about climate change. Maybe the solution is to stop arguing over the science and tell them what they can do right now to make a difference through a series of public service announcements. For example, they need to know that they can make a difference today by: 1. Voting only for candidates who believe in climate change and are committed to fighting it; 2. Purchasing the most energy efficient vehicle they can afford; 3. Only driving when necessary, consolidating trips and sharing the ride; 4. Buying only what they truly need; 5. Weatherizing their homes and offices; 6. Purchasing energy efficient appliances; 7. Turning off appliances and electronics that are not in use; 8. Investing in renewable energy, such as solar panels and windmills for their homes and businesses; and 9. Eating a more plant-based diet. In short, they need to understand that we cannot, in fact, continue to live as we are, and continue to live on a habitable planet. The choice is stark, but real. And saving the planet will come at great sacrifice — including higher costs for energy, food and other goods.

Evidence abounds that we’re not running out of time to counter the catastrophic effects of climate change, we’re out of time. We need to act now or suffer even greater consequences.

Earth Day is a Call to Action!

Repeating “Happy Earth Day” to family and friends today isn’t enough. The holiday is, in fact, a call to action for us all to do what we can to save the planet from climate change and pollution.

For years, Earth has been flashing a RED ALERT about global warming. Oceans, the atmosphere and the land are heating up. As a result, we’re seeing mega-droughts, hotter and longer heat waves, fierce wildfires, stronger more damaging storms, rapid snow and ice melt in Antarctica and Greenland and sea level rise flooding.

To stop global warming, we need to curtail the burning of fossil fuels — coal, oil and natural gas — that release greenhouse gases. We can all play a role by conserving energy. Here’s how:

1. Drive only when necessary, consolidate trips and share the ride.

2. Purchase the most fuel efficient vehicles we can afford and ride public transportation when available.

3. Weather-proof our homes and offices.

4. Buy energy-efficient appliances.

5. Turn off lights and electronics that aren’t in use.

6. Buy only goods we actually need.

7. Eat a more plant-based diet.

8. Vote ONLY  for candidates who are dedicated to fighting climate change.

The last point is critically important. Leaders on the federal, state and local levels are setting the policies that will (or won’t) allow us to reduce and nearly eliminate the use of fossil fuels. We need strong, motivated leaders to get the job done.

Together, we can prevent the climate change catastrophe we’re headed for if we don’t act aggressively to combat it. The time to for us all to start is NOW!

Sea Level Rise Flooding Isn’t The Only Climate Change Symptom Vexing Coastal Real Estate

Climate change is posing many challenges to coastal communities. Sea level rise flooding is one of the more obvious symptoms of a warming planet. Other problems include longer, hotter heat waves and droughts. This time of year in South Florida, sargassum seaweed season begins and it can run sporadically right through the fall.

The smelly, scratchy seaweed washes ashore by the ton on hundreds of miles of beaches in South Florida, Mexico and throughout the Caribbean islands. The seaweed drives tourists away and could one day threaten local real estate markets when buyers get fed up.

Scientists say seaweed blooms in the Caribbean and off Brazil are getting worse every year due to global warming heating up the ocean and humans using too much fertilizer on farms and lawns. Runoff containing animal waste from large-scale farms is also a problem.

Coastal communities are employing a number of methods to combat the seaweed. Some plow it into the sand, others truck it away at great expense. Some communities are even exploring ways to harvest and process the seaweed before it ever reaches land.

The sargassum seaweed problem is expected to get worse until humans stop or at least cut back the use of greenhouse gas producing fossil fuels and get water pollution under control. Real estate buyers and owners in coastal communities need to keep an eye on the seaweed problem as it could one day impact the value of their properties.

Commercial Real Estate Investors and Developers Need to Consider Sea Level Rise Flooding Risk

Sea level rise is impacting public lands and residential and commercial real estate. Just as residential real estate investors need to consider the threat of sea level rise flooding, commercial real estate buyers and owners need to keep on top of it, too.

A recent article (“What CRE Execs Need to Know About Sea Level Rise and the Law”) written by Anca Gagiuc and published by CommercialSearch.com — a multiple listing service for commercial real estate — takes a detailed look at what commercial real estate buyers and owners should consider when they’re deciding how to proceed in coastal communities. In the article, Gagiuc interviews Emily Lamond who works in the environmental department at the Cole Schotz law firm.

Lamond says that commercial developers are already responding to sea level rise by raising land elevation, buildings, roads and critical infrastructure. Renters, buyers and mortgage providers are also interested in buildings that can resists or withstand sea level rise flooding.

Other issues explored are who has liability if a property is flooded and damaged to the point that it is essentially totaled. Lamond says typically the owners are responsible for demolishing and removing damaged buildings. She recommends that owners review their insurance policies to see what’s covered in this situation and also prepare for the possibility of unexpected costs.

Lamond touches on several other points that commercial and residential real estate buyers and owners should consider when evaluating property located in coastal communities threatened by or currently experiencing sea level rise flooding. The entire interview is definitely worth a look.

Latest UN Climate Change Report is Bad News For Real Estate Threatened by Sea Level Rise and the World in General

The Unite Nation’s climate science panel released a report this week that was bad news for real estate subject to sea level rise, wildfires, drought and other environmental threats tied to global warming.

Researchers found that humans continue to burn more and more fossil fuels, which releases ever-increasing amounts of greenhouse gases, at a time when we need to drastically reduce output. At the current rate of emissions, we’re set to blow through the 1.5 degrees Celsius temperature increase limit past reports set for this century. We’re headed for 3.2 degrees Celsius. At this point, even if nations realize their past greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets, the world would still see 2.2 degrees or more of warming.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recently released a report that estimated US coastal cities and towns would see an average of a foot of sea level rise between now and 2050. That estimate was based on 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming. If the globe warms much faster than that, the ocean will expand much faster and glaciers and ice sheets primarily in Greenland and Antarctica will melt faster contributing to faster and greater than predicted sea level rise.

U.S. coastal communities and private real estate owners are already spending billions of dollars to fend off sea level rise-driven floodwaters. They’re building and raising seawalls, installing pumps to remove floodwater, elevating land, homes, and government and commercial buildings, and hardening and/or elevating infrastructure, such as roads, sewer and water pipes and underground energy and communications equipment. If humans don’t drastically reduce their reliance on fossil fuels — such as coal, oil and natural gas — these projects won’t be enough. Last-resort measures such as managed retreat — property buyouts in flooded areas — will increasingly become the norm.

Faster and higher sea level rise will not only lead to more frequent tidal flooding of vulnerable coastal areas, it will also result in more powerful storm surges being driven further inland. All together, this will apply incredible pressure on the already strained insurance and mortgage markets in coastal communities.

UN report researchers say we need to cut all greenhouse gas emissions in half by the next decade. The best way to do this is by relying more heavily on renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power. Improving energy efficiency in homes and businesses and energy conservation practices also play an important role.

Fortunately, these goals are within reach. For example, the cost per unit of solar energy is 85% less than it was in 2010. The cost per unit of wind power is 55% cheaper.

The X factor in all of this is our political will and personal commitment to changing our habits to achieve these objectives. The world’s nations have been less-than-honest about the efforts and results they’ve achieved so far in the fight against climate change, global warming, and sea level rise. Not being forthright with the facts is dangerous for us all. The simple fact is when we gaslight Earth, we’re the ones who get burned. The planet’s chemistry and physics are well-established, and the its rules can’t be broken without resulting in a world that is inhospitable to human life.

UN scientists say we have a very narrow and quickly closing window of opportunity to fend off the worst case global warming scenario. Each and every one of us has a role in preventing that outcome.

New CO2 Emissions Record is Bad News for Sea Level Rise and Real Estate

A few weeks ago, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released a startling report that predicted the US coastline would see on average a foot and up to 18 inches of sea level rise by 2050. The agency said the next 50 years of potential sea level rise after that will be heavily influenced by the amount of fossil fuels — coal, oil, and natural gas — that’s burned, releasing carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere and causing it to continue warming up. This week, the long-term sea level rise outlook took a turn for the worse when a report was released that said the world reached a record for CO2 emissions in 2021.

The International Energy Agency (IEA), an autonomous intergovernmental organization that helps countries shape energy policies, analyzed public and private energy and economic data to reach the conclusion that “global energy-related carbon dioxide emissions rose by 6% in 2021 to 36.3 billion tonnes, their highest ever level”. The IEA blamed the increase in CO2 emissions on the global economic recovery from the Covid-19 crisis and an increased reliance on coal when the price of natural gas spiked.

The IEA said in a press release that the “world must now ensure that the global rebound in emissions in 2021 was a one-off and that an accelerated energy transition contributes to global energy security”.

The recent NOAA report explained why reducing, not increasing, emissions is critically important to coastal communities. The report said: “About 2 feet (0.6 meters) of 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 (0.5-1.5 meters) of rise for a total of 3.5-7 feet (1.1 – 2.1 meters) by the end of this century.”

It’s important to note here that the government researchers admitted that they’re still not exactly certain what impact sudden changes in glacial ice melt in Greenland and Antarctica could have on sea level rise in the decades to come. An ice shelf collapse that results in a sudden release of land based-glaciers into the ocean in Antarctica or a rapid acceleration in the melting of land-based snow and ice in Greenland could lead to a faster than predicted increase in sea level rise.

The bottom line here is that if humans don’t radically cut back on the release of CO2 and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, all of the sea level rise predictions could turn out to be dangerously conservative. The first one foot of human-driven sea level rise is costing coastal communities — and residential and commercial real estate owners — billions of dollars to repair flood damage and prevent additional damage. The next foot of sea level rise in the next 30 years will certainly compound the problem. Add more on top of that and a lot of coastal real estate will become uninhabitable.

After Russian Attacks and Seizures of Ukrainian Nuclear Power Plants, is Nuclear Energy Still A Viable Global Warming Solution?

In recent years, some environmentalists and environmental groups (read this New Yorker article for a list) have enthusiastically embraced nuclear power plants as clean energy sources that will help us in the fight against climate change, global warming, sea level rise, and other climate-driven natural disasters. Watching a Russian tank fire at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine last week — an event that nuclear experts warned could have resulted in a meltdown at the facility and the release of dangerous amounts of radiation into the environment — I couldn’t help but wonder if nuclear energy is still a viable clean-energy option.

Russian shells fired at the six-reactor Zaporizhizhia Nuclear Power Plant, the largest in Europe, Thursday night set fire to a training building next to the plant. Fortunately, operators at the plant were able to shut down most of the facility’s reactors and stabilize the site without incident, but the threat clearly isn’t over. News reports say since Russian forces took over the power plant, the staff there are working under extreme stress with limited contact with the outside world. In addition, Russian forces have also taken over a second nuclear power plant and are moving toward a third.

These developments demonstrate that no matter how safe some environmentalists and environmental groups may consider nuclear power plants, the truth is they are clearly not benign and indestructible. In the last 35 years, two of the worst nuclear accidents in history already demonstrated this fact.

After human error led to the 1986 meltdown at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine in 1986, so much radioactivity was released into the atmosphere that 39,000 square miles of land — mainly in Ukraine, Belarus and Russia — was contaminated with fallout. In 2011, a tsunami inundated the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant and caused three nuclear meltdowns that forced the evacuation of 154,000 residents in a 12 mile radius around the plant. Containing the site could take up to forty years.

Nuclear reactors aren’t the only threat to the environment, either. Nuclear waste, too, poses an environmental threat. Typically highly radioactive byproducts of nuclear power generation are stored on-site where they could be disturbed by natural disasters, war, terrorists and operator errors.

Before the Russian attacks against the Ukrainian nuclear power plants, nuclear power boosters insisted that when you weigh the damage nuclear reactors inflict on the environment against the damage that burning oil, coal and natural gas are now causing, nuclear power is the best option to allow us to cut back on the use of climate-warming fossil fuels without seriously damaging the world economy. It’s still too early to see if they still take this position after witnessing how easy it was for the Russian military to attack and seize the Ukrainian nuclear power plants at great risk to the environment.

Public opinion, too, will play a role in the future of nuclear power. Before the Russian military took control of the Ukrainian nuclear power plants, Americans were split almost evenly in their support or opposition to nuclear power. The outcome of Russian military control of Ukraine’s nuclear power plants will certainly influence the level of support for nuclear power and its future in the fight against global warming.

While the future of nuclear power is sorted out, it’s clear that we need to invest massive amounts of capital and brain-power in the development of truly safe and clean renewable energy sources, such as solar panels and wind turbines, to combat climate change. Conservation will have to play a role, too.

UN Report Warns Climate Change Threatens Not Only Sea Level Rise Real Estate but Human Survival Itself

“The scientific evidence is unequivocal, climate change is a threat to human wellbeing and the health of the planet. Any further delay in concerted global action will miss a brief and rapidly closing window to secure a liveable future.” — Hans-Otto Portner, Co-Chair of the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a United Nations’ group that assesses the science related to climate change, issued a dire warning for humanity regarding climate change today. “To avoid mounting loss of life, biodiversity and infrastructure, accelerated action is required to adapt to climate change, at the same time as making rapid, deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions,” the IPCC said in a media release. “So far progress on adaptation is uneven and there are increasing gaps between action taken and what is needed to deal with the increasing risks.”

The IPCC report is attractive massive media coverage not only for its strong wording but because of the urgency of its prediction that humans don’t have much longer to reduce the amount of fossil fuels — such as coal, oil and natural gas — it burns before it reaches a tipping point.

Businesses are taking notice. A Reuters article published today says governments and regulators are just starting to issue rules that require companies to alert investors to the impact climate change is having on their operations today and the threats they’ll face in the future.

Coastal real estate buyers, owners and investors, too, need to start gathering facts about the risk sea level rise poses to a property of interest and the neighborhood and community its located in. To make educated decisions, they need to know information such as if a property is currently experiencing sea level rise flooding, if it will in the near future, if roads and other critical infrastructure that serve the property are being impacted by flooding, and what the local government intends to do about it. They also need to know if the homeowner’s association or condo board, if there is one, plans to do to address sea level rise.

These types of questions will help them to gauge the impact sea level rise will have on maintenance and insurance costs, tax rates, association dues and special assessments, and, ultimately, property value. It will also give them an idea if there’s a threat that insurers and/or mortgage providers will stop providing policies and loans in a given area.

This might sound far-fetched to some people. But, just this month, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac announced a policy that they would not back mortgages in condo developments that weren’t properly maintained and that didn’t have the reserves to pay for routine and emergency maintenance. As sea level rises and damages more coastal real estate, it’s a good bet lenders will get tougher in approving loans in areas experiencing property-damaging sea level rise. This will impact the ability buyers to buy properties and of owners and investors to sell them.

While sounding negative, the IPCC report will actually have a positive effect if it spurs governments, businesses and individuals to get involved in the fight against climate change and global warming before the window of opportunity closes for good.

Changing Our Eating Habits Is One Way to Fight Sea Level Rise Flooding — Yes, Really

One way coastal real estate owners can fight sea level rise flooding is by eating a more plant-based meat diet that produces less greenhouse gases than animal-based meat meals. StepByStepChef.com has a series of free plant based meat recipes and videos that will show them how to get started.

Sea level rise flooding is as surely a symptom of global warming as raging wildfires, mega-droughts and more powerful hurricanes. The disease that’s driving the growth in such disasters is humans burning fossil fuels — such as coal, oil and natural gas — that release the greenhouse gases that are heating up the planet.

Fighting sea level rise requires a concerted effort by real estate owners and governments to take steps necessary to hold back the floodwaters, but it also demands that we all change our habits to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases — primarily carbon dioxide and methane — that we release into the atmosphere. Among our options are buying the most fuel efficient vehicles we can afford; consolidating trips so we don’t drive as much; weatherizing our homes and offices and equipping them with efficient heating and cooling systems; and eating a more plant-based diet.

The last point is one that I’ve been focusing my energies on lately. For years, I’ve own and operate a website called StepByStepChef.com where I post free recipes and videos that show people how to cook hundreds of dishes in a detailed step-by-step manner. I’m pleased to report that my videos have been viewed over 14 million times.

To help myself and others to reduce our carbon footprints, I spent the last several months sampling plant-based beef, chicken, pork and even fish — many of them are quite delicious — and building dishes around them. Why? Because it takes far less fossil fuels to create plant-based meats than it does animal based meats. In addition, plant-based meats are produced without the release of methane — a powerful greenhouse gas — that animals give off as part of normal biological processes.

Last week, I started to post videos showing people how to make delicious meals — such as plant based meatballs and spaghetti, plant based beef tacos, plant-based chicken stir fry, and plant-based sausage omelets. All of the recipes were tested for taste and texture before I produced the videos.

If you’re interested in helping to fight global warming and sea level rise flooding by reducing your carbon footprint, I invite you to take a look at the plant-based cooking videos on StepByStepChef.com. There are already 17 free recipes and videos on the site with much more to come. In addition to the plant-based cooking instruction, you’ll find over 225 other free recipes and videos that are fully vegetarian or use animal-based ingredients.

If we work together to fight climate change and sea level rise at the source by reducing our carbon footprints, we just might be able to escape the dire predictions scientists have drawn if we continue to release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere at the current rate.

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