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.

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.

The Surfside Florida Tragedy Will Change How People Handle Coastal Real Estate

As a long-time resident of South Florida, this is the most difficult post I’ve had to write for SeaLevelRiseRealEstate.com. My condolences to the family and friends of those who lost their lives in the tragic Surfside, Florida, high-rise building collapse. May they find comfort in the memories of their days together.

Although the investigation into the disaster has barely begun, structural engineers analyzing potential causes have suggested that rainwater and maybe even sea level rise-driven, salty ocean floodwater that pooled on a flat pool deck may have damaged the building’s concrete and steel reinforcement structure to the point that the pool deck collapsed into the garage and brought the floors above with it. For a few years, structural engineers had warned the condo board that the water damage needed to be fixed immediately. The condo board says that it did its best to convince the residents that they needed to fund the repairs, but it was a slow process. Investigators will have to sort out the details.

Regardless of the ultimate cause of the catastrophe, the lessons are clear for buyers and owners of real estate in coastal communities. They need to practice due diligence when evaluating coastal properties.

When buyers are purchasing condos, townhouses or homes in seaside communities, they need to have the structures fully evaluated by licensed and experienced home inspectors. When they receive the inspection report, they need to read it in detail and ask the inspectors to explain any deficiencies and whether it’s still worth purchasing the subject property.

In cases that involve homeowner’s associations or condo boards, buyers need to treat the interview process as not only an opportunity for the board to become familiar with them but as an opportunity for them to find out if the board is managing the property well. To do this, buyers need to get a copy of financial records and annual reports and actually read them to see if the association is properly funded or burdened with debt and holding enough reserves to cover the cost of anticipated maintenance. They also need to find out if the property is properly maintained, if there are any ongoing maintenance issues, and if there are any anticipated maintenance projects — and how much each resident will have to pay toward the projects. Special assessments can cost each owner tens of thousands of dollars. Another crucial part of this due diligence process is asking the board for a copy of recent property inspections, whether they were conducted by a private firm or city department.

Both salt-water infused rain and sea level rise flooding can damage structures. Buyers need to find out in writing from sellers or the board whether or not the property is subject to sea level rise flooding now or will be in the near future. They also need to know what, if anything, is being done to control the problem and how much it will cost.

Buyers aren’t the only ones who need to practice due diligence. Owners of coastal real estate need to be pro-active when it comes to the maintenance of what is essentially their home. They have to get involved either by becoming board members or becoming active participants — and problem solvers — in the board’s deliberations. When a structural engineer identifies a problem that needs to be addressed immediately, they need to pressure the board and other residents to get on board and get it repaired.

Owners also need to pay attention to the threat sea level rise flooding poses to a property and what the board intends to do to address it. If fellow residents aren’t interested in properly maintaining a building, it might be time to sell.

Over the years, I’ve rented condos in buildings that were well managed and some that weren’t. One condo building I lived in a block from the ocean was so poorly maintained that saltwater intruded through the stucco exterior causing so much damage practically the entire structure had to be replaced to make the building habitable. Another building I’ve lived in was so well managed that the owners fixed slight deficiencies before they caused any noticeable damage. Condo and homeowner’s association fees for some buildings might seem high on the short-term, but if the money is being used to avoid costlier problems down the road, the investment is clearly worth it.

Over the past few months, I read an article in the Charleston Post and Courier that said one of the first questions buyers in Charleston — a city that’s being impacted by flooding from sea level rise, storm surges, and heavy rain — were asking is “Does this property flood?” A real estate agent quoted in a Miami Herald article said agents in her city rarely if ever asked that question — this despite Miami being ground zero for sea level rise flooding. The Surfside tragedy will likely result in buyers being much more likely to ask questions regarding flooding and building maintenance. Condo and homeowner’s association boards and owners in their building are going to have to be much more pro-active regarding building maintenance to protect their investment and their lives.

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.

Get Ready for FEMA’s New National Flood Insurance Program Rate Structure: Risk Rating 2.0

The National Flood Insurance Program, which is administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), is about to undergo a major rate structure overhaul. Real estate owners and buyers will soon find out if rates for a given property are going to decrease, stay the same, or maybe even increase substantially.

FEMA is making the flood insurance rate adjustments to bring fairness into the program. The agency says under the current rate structure, property owners in low risk flood zones are often paying higher insurance premiums than property owners in higher risk area, and property owners with less expensive properties are paying more than owners of properties with higher replacement costs. The agency is encouraging owners to call their flood insurance agents in August to find out what to expect when their flood insurance bills are released in October.

According to FEMA’s website, 23% of policyholders will see an average of $86 a month premium reduction, 66% will see a $0-$10 a month increase, 7% will see a $10-$20 a month increase, and 4% will see their premiums increase over $20 a month.

Real estate buyers should find out how a property of interest will be impacted by Risk Rating 2.0 when they’re considering submitting a contract. They should also consider asking the seller for information about the existing policy to find out from the insurance provider if assuming the policy at closing will result in savings.

Buyers, sellers, owners and real estate agents can find out more about Risk Rating 2.0 and the National Flood Insurance Program on FEMA’s website. The website also features valuable information on the steps owners can take to reduce their premiums.

With sea level rise continuing to cause ever-more flooding in coastal communities, everyone living near the water needs to stay on top of the latest developments regarding flood insurance.

Can Real Estate Agents Be Sued Over Sea Level Rise Flooding?

With sea level rising, real estate agents face a growing risk of lawsuits from buyers and sellers regarding the disclosure of flood-related facts about a property of interest.

The National Association of Realtors ™ (NAR) commissioned a study of flood-related lawsuits filed between 2000-2020. According to an article in the association’s magazine, researcher found 4,500 flood-related lawsuits (not all sea level rise related, of course) were filed. Of those, 61 lawsuits “specifically involved a real estate professional or brokerage.” Furthermore, six resulted in “significant verdicts and awards against the real estate licensee and brokerage.”

NAR said most of the cases “were brought by buyers against seller’s agents or brokerages and alleged fraud, breach of fiduciary duty, negligence, and intentional misrepresentation or omission.”

As coastal flooding becomes more frequent, more damaging, and impacts more and more properties and neighborhoods, real estate agents are going to have to become more aware flooding is in their communities. They’re also going to have to consult their brokers and real estate attorneys for a clear understanding of what they’re required to disclose according to their state’s disclosure laws and what sellers themselves have to tell buyers. Failure to meet the requirements puts their clients and their own financial futures and careers in jeopardy.

Please read “7 Sea Level Rise Real Estate Questions for Buyers, Sellers, Owners & Real Estate Agents” for more information about this issue and many more.

Sea Level Rise Added Billions of Dollars to Hurricane Sandy’s Storm Surge Damage

When it comes to sea level rise, buyers, sellers, owners, and real estate agents need to be aware of both the increased occurrence of nuisance flooding — tidal floodwaters that inundate neighborhoods on sunny days — and storm surges that can strike quickly and inflict billions of dollars in damages in a very short time.

A study recently released by researchers at Climate Central, an independent organization of scientists and journalists dedicated to informing the public about climate change, demonstrated the threat sea-level-rise-fueled storm surges pose to coastal communities. The researchers gathered information about Hurricane Sandy and concluded that a few additional inches of sea level rise contributed over $8 billion dollars worth of damage to the $62.7 billion the super storm inflicted on New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

To arrive at that astonishing figure, the researchers analyzed water levels during Hurricane Sandy and compared it with an estimate of how high the water would have risen without human-caused sea level rise. Based on a conservative estimate of just over four inches of sea level rise added between 1900 and 2012, the year Hurricane Sandy struck, they estimated that sea level rise added $8.1 billion to the total tab the states had to spend repairing storm damage, including power grids and transportation networks.

The researchers noted in their analysis that economic damages may have been much higher than stated in their report. “Our estimates do not account for potential long-term economic effects, such as losses and gains in broad economic activity associated with employment and production changes across industries in the aftermath of a damaging cyclone event,” they wrote.

Climate Central’s chief scientist and CEO Benjamin Strauss, Ph.D., put the report in perspective: “Just a hands-width of sea level rise from climate change caused more than 10 percent of the damage from Sandy’s towering floodwaters. The implications are enormous. For any lesser ocean flood, the percentage must be higher.”

Clearly buyers, sellers, owners, and real estate agents can’t afford to ignore the influence ever-rising seas have on damaging storm surges when they’re evaluating coastal properties.

Florida’s State Government Does a 180 on Sea Level Rise Flooding

Just a few short years ago, the state of Florida’s official position on sea level rise was not only “no problem” but “don’t mention it”. Then Republican Gov. Rick Scott made national headlines by banning mention of climate change and its many impacts from official state discourse.

This month, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis turned the tide — so to speak — on sea level rise by signing into law a bill that created the Resilient Florida Grant Program in the Department of Environmental Protection. The program will use millions of dollars in state funding to aid local communities in their efforts to combat sea level rise flooding, which has been damaging coastal real estate and infrastructure for years. Some of the funding will be spent on new seawalls in Miami and West Palm Beach, drainage improvements in Key West, and reconstructed roadways at many locations.

In addition to the grant program, Gov. DeSantis signed a bill that requires the Department of Environmental Protection to conduct a statewide risk assessment and draft a three-year sea level rise resilience plan.

Environmentalists are generally encouraged by the state’s willingness to acknowledge and take on the challenges posed by sea level rise flooding. They would, however, like to see officials take the next step and actually tackle the root cause of sea level rise: the burning of fossil fuels that’s driving global warming.

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.

Buyers, Sellers, Owners & Real Estate Agents Need to Know Their Community’s Plan to Fight Sea Level Rise Flooding

How a community plans to deal with sea level rise flooding can have a big impact on buyers, sellers, owners, and real estate agents.

As sea level continues to rise, coastal communities are having to make difficult decisions about how to prevent flooding. Often the plans involve building or improving seawalls, installing pump stations, and raising property and critical infrastructure, such as roads and underground pipes.

These types of projects can have a substantial impact on property owners. How? Many cities and towns are planning or actually implementing projects with hefty million and even billion dollar price tags that have the potential to cause a spike in taxes or utility fees. In addition, the projects themselves can include seawalls, pump stations and infrastructure improvements that can block views and/or involve many years of construction.

Many owners are waking up to the fact that they need to keep up-to-date on how their community plans to deal with sea level rise flooding to ensure that their property value and quality of life aren’t negatively impacted. Right now, Miami Beach, Florida, a city that’s aggressively combatting sea level rise flooding, is debating the placement of a large pump station. Many residents don’t want it in their neighborhoods for fear of how it will impact their view and ability to enjoy their community. Similar arguments are going on elsewhere, including in Miami and Charleston, SC, where residents are concerned about proposed tall seawalls blocking their views.

Current property owners aren’t the only ones who need to stay on top of a community’s sea level rise plans. Buyers, too, need to perform due diligence and find out what projects are being considered and how they will impact their property of interest. There have been cases where buyers have moved into a home only to find out that a tall seawall or pump station was about to be built nearby or that the roads out front were going to be dug up for years.

Owners who plan to sell their homes need to know not only what’s planned for their neighborhood but also whether or not their state requires them to disclose what they know to buyers. Real estate agents should keep informed not only because it’s part of their professional duty to know what’s going on in their farm area, but, because they may be held accountable by buyers if they unknowingly purchase a home that will be impacted by sea level rise infrastructure projects.

The bottom line here is that buyers, sellers, owners, and real estate agents can no longer afford to turn a blind eye to sea level rise flooding or the approaches their communities plan to implement to combat it. The stakes — property value and quality of life — are too high.

Read more about this important topic in “7 Sea Level Rise Real Estate Questions for Buyers, Sellers, Owners & Real Estate Agents”.