On September 18, CleanTechnica posted an article, “Miami’s Existence Is Threatened With As Little As 18″ Of Sea Level Rise.”
Miami is the home of almost half a million people. Its real estate has immense value. But Miami is built on porous sandstone, so even a seawall will not save it because the water flows right through the rock it is built on. To makes matters worse, Miami is just one of many communities in its area that are threatened. It is a problem across the whole southern end of Florida.
There are many coastal communities threatened to some degree by sea level rise. Clearly, some are less threatened than Miami, but some are actually threatened more. The article, “’We’re moving to higher ground’: America’s era of climate mass migration is here,” appeared at The Guardian on September 24. It said “In 2016, the community of Isle de Jean Charles in Louisiana was the first place to be given federal money to replant itself.” It also spoke of about a dozen towns in coastal areas of Alaska that are exposed by reductions in ocean ice, because the ice was all that stood between them and coastal erosion. The ice is disappearing, and when it is gone, they may be also.
A more recent article at PRI, titled “An Alaskan village is falling into the sea. Washington is looking the other way,” appeared on October 22. It describes the conditions of Shishmaref, Alaska, home to 600 Iñupiat people. The village is existentially threatened by climate change in the Arctic. President Obama had signed an order that would help those people in their time of real need. His replacement as Chief White House Occupant revoked that order to save some money. One thing Donald Trump cannot revoke, however, is climate change.
Though Trump may not be smart enough to see the threat to the value of his own real estate, others have long noticed. Looking through the records, we can see the same theme repeated increasingly. An article, “Miami residents fear ‘climate gentrification’ as investors seek higher ground,” appeared on December 19, 2017 at PRI. That article tells the story of residents of the Little Haiti neighborhood who were facing increasing rents because more affluent people were already moving to higher ground, six feet higher than the city’s average. It said, “developers are wary of investing in beachfront property.” That report, from nearly a year ago, was about a trend that was already well underway. People have already started to notice in enough numbers to have effects on the markets.
As the sea rises, all the people displaced will not all simply move to higher ground. As the flow of wealthy people away from beachfront property continues, the people in neighborhoods like Little Haiti will have to find new homes. Increasing numbers of those in the area will have to move to other parts of the country. And so the mass migration that has been predicted for years seems to be starting.
Unfortunately for denialists, there is not much time left before things get rough. According to a CNN article from September 21, “Homeowners who live on the coast are sleepwalking toward climate catastrophe,” the Army Corps of Engineers is projecting sea level rises in South Florida of 12 inches by 2030. If the army engineers are right, the sunny-day flooding events in Miami will not just get worse – they will get worse very rapidly. At some point, even the most foolish denialists start to notice. To do so, they will have to understand that truth is not negotiable in exchange for campaign contributions. But they will do so. And when they do they will understand that someone was lying to them about climate change.
With rising sea levels, at some point beachfront property values will crash. How much rise will it take to cause that? Do we have to go halfway to the existential threat to Miami (nine inches)? Or will it be less? And when real estate values crash in one difficult location, will investors in other areas fail to notice? My guess is that we could see a panic developing within a couple of years. I could be wrong. But if I am wrong, the indications are that it will be on the timing of the panic, not the event of sea level rise. The event can be measured; it is well under way.
There is one very tricky point. The Republican Party has apparently not merely sold its virtue to climate denialism, but has become entangled in it. And the divorce from denialism will be tricky, I suspect, because those who fund it have made it clear that they will seek revenge.
If the Republicans are lucky, they will lose this election badly. Humiliated, they can begin to act humble. And in their humility, they may come to understand that truth is not a political object to buy or sell. And so, they could survive.
If they win with enough votes to maintain their environmental destroyalism, they themselves will be destroyed utterly. That is because climate change is real. And when events make it plain to all the people they have sold out, they will not be forgiven.
This is not like the 2008 mortgage crisis. When the land sinks into the sea, it will not come back.
But the really bad news for Republicans is that real estate is just a small part of the problems they will have to face when reality catches up with them.
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