The Incredible Cost of Climate Change on the Coast
If my mid-city apartment becomes beachfront property, how will that affect my rent?
In Los Angeles, it’s well-known that the closer you get to the beach, the more you can expect to pay for cost of living. We are paying for that extra bit of time we don’t have to spend sitting in beach traffic. But we are not the only ones trying to breathe the ocean breeze; over 50% of Americans live in coastal counties, which account for only 17% of US land area.
Climate change and rising sea-levels brings a new level of risk to life by the shore, however. Recent events such as Hurricane Sandy and the Fukushima nuclear disaster have obliterated any doubt that the awesome power of the ocean can transcend the tide line and wreak havoc, especially in densely populated areas. A new report issued last week by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration analyzes and estimates this risk for the climate change era, in which melting ice and rising temperatures are fueling the oceans up with even more potential energy. Warmer oceans mean more active and extreme weather systems, and when combined with the tide line creeping up, that means more danger to cities and coastal populations.
The report does not directly answer my question about my rent, but it does shed some light on the increased risks and costs of having dense populations in coastal zones in an era of climate change and rising sea-level. Some things to think about:
-634 million people worldwide live in low-elevation coastal zones
-Coastal zones contributed more than $8.3 trillion to the U.S. economy in 2011.
-Many nuclear power plants are located on the coast. In California, we have San Onofre and Diablo Canyon. In New York and New Jersey, they have Indian Point and Oyster Creek. They may be prepared for a certain level of storm surge, but how much? The ocean will surprise you if you turn your back on it.
-The total cost for Sandy in New York and New Jersey is estimated at over $71 billion.
If you are not scared of climate change, you aren’t paying close enough attention. Something needs to be done immediately to slow it down, and turn it around. Economically, this is a situation where a penny spent is many trillions of dollars saved down the road.
Luckily, President Obama does not need to wait for Congress to take action to reduce the largest source of greenhouse gases in the country. He has the right and the responsibility under the Clean Air Act to limit carbon emissions from existing coal-fired power plants right now, as NRDC has proposed. He knows that this is one of the most important things he can do as POTUS, but he needs to know that he has our support.
Please take a minute right now and sign this petition, or go turn off some lights and disconnect power-sucking electronics, or take a minute to figure out a way to reduce your number of car trips this week. It might not seem like a lot, but your small action just may be the straw that doesn’t break the camel’s back. Earth-dwellers around the world, and especially on the coasts, thank you.
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