A new report released Monday by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) claims that accelerated sea level rise, mainly due to climate change, will worsen high tide flooding across the United States coastline. Within the next 30 years, which is the time frame of a typical mortgage, as many as 311,000 homes will be at risk for coastal flooding. This translates to a cost of about $117.5 billion in damages. According to UCS, “Roughly 14,000 coastal commercial properties assessed at a value of roughly $18.5 billion also are at risk during that time frame.”
This situation will worsen further by the end of this century as sea levels continue to rise. Home and businesses worth $1 trillion will be at risk for water inundation. That would affect an estimated 2.5 million buildings. That is “roughly the equivalent of all the homes in Los Angeles and Houston combined—valued at approximately $912 billion and 107,000 commercial properties assessed at $152 billion,” based on the report.
This data is driven by science. UCS determined these calculations by basing it on three different sea level rise scenarios from NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) projections and property data from Zillow, an online real estate company. UCS then took this data and determined how many properties along the US coastline are estimated to witness an average of at least 26 flooding days per year.
According to Rachel Cleetus, an economist at UCS as well as the co-author of the report, says, “What’s striking as we look along our coasts is that the significant risks of sea level rise to properties identified in our study often aren’t reflected in current home values in coastal real estate markets. Unfortunately, in the years ahead many coastal communities will face declining property values as risk perceptions catch up with reality. In contrast with previous housing market crashes, values of properties chronically inundated due to sea level rise are unlikely to recover and will only continue to go further underwater, literally and figuratively.”
This study is important because it can forecast how the economy may be impacted by climate change by the end of this century. It suggests that coastal home values will fall as well as tax revenues. By 2100, it is estimated that 4.7 million people will be impacted by coastal flooding. This would incur a $12 billion in property taxes. According to Kristy Dahl, also a co-author of the report, says, “Some smaller, more rural communities may see 30, 50, or even 70 percent of their property tax revenue at risk due to the number of chronically inundated homes. Tax base erosion could create particular challenges for communities already struggling with high poverty rates.”
Based on the report, here’s which states will be most impacted by the number of homes at risk for coastal flooding:
- Florida (up to $351 billion loss in home values)
- New Jersey (up to $108 billion loss in home values)
- New York (up to $100 billion loss in home values)
Every state along the coast will be at risk for coastal flooding. The report concludes that economic and housing crises may arise, and that people can help by limiting the increase in sea level rise due to climate change: “If we manage to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement by keeping warming to between 1.5 and 2 degrees Celsius and if ice loss is limited, 85 percent of all affected residential properties—valued at $782 billion today and currently accounting for more than $10.4 billion in annual property tax revenue to municipal governments—could avoid chronic flooding this century. The longer we wait to drastically reduce emissions, the less likely it is that we will achieve this outcome.”
Full report here.