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Ponzi 2: What Year Will Coastal Property Values Crash?
Joe Romm, 10 Mar 09

Coastal property values won't wait to (permanently) fall until sea levels have actually risen 4 or 5 feet, as they almost certainly will by the end this century on our current CO2 emissions path (see Startling new sea level rise research: "Most likely" 0.8 to 2.0 meters by 2100 and Report from AGU meeting: One meter sea level rise by 2100 "very likely" even if warming stops?).

Coastal property values will crash when a large fraction of the financial community and of opinion-makers -- along with a smaller but substantial fraction of the public -- realize that it is too late for us to stop 4 to 5 feet of SLR. And remember, if we don't get on the sustainable sub-450-ppm path soon, then people will quickly come to understand that SLR won't stop in 2100. Seas will continue rising post-2100 perhaps 10 to 20 inches a decade (or more) for centuries until we are ice free and seas are 250 feet higher. And that makes protecting most coastal cities very, very difficult and expensive.

One of the points of my post "Is the global economy a Ponzi scheme and what comes next? Part 1," of course, is that we haven't hit that critical mass of knowledge yet. If we had, the world would be engaged in a massive, desperate effort to avert catastrophe.

And so I pose the question in my talks: What year will coastal property values crash?

I am certainly interested in your thoughts on this.

I pose the question mostly to stimulate thinking. And certainly the collapse is unlikely to happen in just one year -- so perhaps the better question is, What year will U.S. coastal property values peak?

I tend to think the peak comes some time in the 2020s.

The peak will probably be linked to one or more major climate disasters of a kind that I enumerated in "What are the near-term climate Pearl Harbors?" Note that the growing fear of a hurricane damage has already been made getting new insurance for coastal homes in places like Long Island difficult (see here).

But awareness on SLR is growing (see US Geological Survey stunner: Sea-level rise in 2100 will likely "substantially exceed" IPCC projections). And it is poised to grow even more quickly in the coming years, as yesterday's article in UK's Guardian newspaper, "Scientists to issue stark warning over dramatic new sea level figures" makes clear:

This week's climate change conference in Copenhagen will sound an alarm over new floodings -- enough to swamp Bangladesh, Florida, the Norfolk Broads and the Thames estuary.

Scientists will warn this week that rising sea levels, triggered by global warming, pose a far greater danger to the planet than previously estimated. There is now a major risk that many coastal areas around the world will be inundated by the end of the century because Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets are melting faster than previously estimated.

Low-lying areas including Bangladesh, Florida, the Maldives and the Netherlands face catastrophic flooding, while, in Britain, large areas of the Norfolk Broads and the Thames estuary are likely to disappear by 2100. In addition, cities including London, Hull and Portsmouth will need new flood defences.

"It is now clear that there are going to be massive flooding disasters around the globe," said Dr David Vaughan, of the British Antarctic Survey. "Populations are shifting to the coast, which means that more and more people are going to be threatened by sea-level rises."

It certainly bears repeating that it is not too late to prevent the worst, were humanity to engage in an all out effort to stay below 450 ppm, but time is running out for that option very quickly.

This post originally appeared in Climate Progress.

Photo credit: flickr/nattu, Creative Commons license.

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My take on this is that before massive and catastrophic floodings occur, acceleration of widespread coastal erosion is likely to have significant impacts, and trigger global awareness of the problem. Coastal erosion will not affect lowlands only, but stability of cliffs, beaches, dunes ... just about everywhere. Many assets built too close to fragile coastlines have already be washed away by the sea in many places the world around. Maybe this will be the main and first reason to the coastal property values crash.

Posted by: Bernard Vatant on 11 Mar 09

Trent Lott will only allow the Ocean to rise after he's dead.

Posted by: Thomas Jefferson on 11 Mar 09

Real property values depend on perception of value. As long as we believe coastal properties have value they will.

Our memory is short, Katrina who?, and I don't think without something to remind us of the problem we will change our perceptions. That something could be insurance rates.

Coastal prices will peak and start to fall just as soon as insurance companies become convinced that SLR is inevitable and start to raise rates significantly. I believe this will happen in the next 5 years.

Posted by: C Robb on 11 Mar 09

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