Francis Waskey’s house used to stand four feet above ground on wooden stilts. Now, the mud underneath it has swallowed them whole. As the posts sank over the years into the thawing, carbon-rich frozen soil known as permafrost, Waskey tried propping up the 28-by-36-foot wooden structure with two empty propane tanks, to no avail. The ground shifted so much that the vinyl floor split apart.
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People like to live in coastal areas, in fact about 4 in 10 Americans do. However, if sea levels rise over time, as scientists generally expect, what will that mean for house prices? Unfortunately, this is not good news for many home owners. Researchers at Wharton in a paper published this month by the National Bureau of Economic Research, believe they’re now seeing real price declines. What was once a more theoretical and debated threat to house prices, may be becoming real, at least in areas of Florida.
A new University of California Berkeley Center for Community Innovation study raises important questions about California’s wildfire policies, but its solutions would be disastrous. The report chastens the state for encouraging homeowners and cities to adopt wildfire-mitigation strategies rather than simply discouraging the construction of homes in fire-prone areas.
To the science-minded person, it can be comforting to divide humanity into sane, rational climate change believers (like themselves) and dangerously deluded climate change deniers. Unfortunately, as psychologists who study climate anxiety are wont to , in practice most people are somewhere in between — trying to ignore the looming new reality just enough to continue on with their lives and business.
When Hurricane Harvey struck Texas in August 2017, it dumped 27 trillion gallons of rain on the greater Houston region, sumberging about a quarter of the metropolitan area. To this day, it remains the wettest storm on record in the U.S. The hurricane, which research would later find was 15 percent more intense and three times as likely due to climate change, caused financial hardship for thousands of families.
Workmen have invaded Flora Dillard’s house on the east side of Cleveland. There’s plastic over everything and no place to sit, but Dillard doesn’t seem to mind. “A couple of days of inconvenience is nothing, compared to the results that you get,” she says.
In early May, President Joe Biden stood in front of the 70-year old Calcasieu River Bridge in Lake Charles, Louisiana. With the aging bridge in the background, he spoke about the hurricanes that have battered the town over the last year, emphasizing the need for infrastructure to adapt to the increasing severity of storms influenced by climate change. “The people of Louisiana always have picked themselves up, just like America always picks itself up,” he said, adding that the U.S. needs to “build back in a way that all we build is better able to withstand storms.”
Two of the biggest problems we face today — a shortage of decent, affordable housing and climate change — are connected. Fortunately, the solutions are connected as well. That’s why we must not only “build back better” in the wake of pandemic and recession, but build back greener.
Recovery For All of Us: New York City Adopts new Zoning Rules to Protect Coastal Areas From Climate Change
NEW YORK—Following a City Council vote, Mayor Bill de Blasio today announced that a major package of zoning rules will now help to protect homes and businesses in New York City’s vast floodplain from climate change. The package of zoning rules, known as Zoning for Coastal Flood Resiliency (ZCFR), helps buildings better withstand and recover from major disasters and sea level rise, which could lead to lower insurance costs.
In 2000, almost 8,000 affordable housing units in the United States were at risk from annual coastal flooding. By 2050, this number could rise to 24,518, according to a recent analysis by Climate Central.