If Oyster Beds and Kelp Forests Go, So Goes Your Beachfront Home



This is my unvarnished, unsolicited advice to the 1.4 million Americans living within a mile of a coast. I know you’ve grown accustomed to the soothing sounds of crashing surf. I get that those sunrises and sunsets are just too much like a postcard to ever abandon. But trust me. Sell. Sell now. Get out while you can still find a sucker to take the four walls and roof off your hands.

Climate change and what it will do to our future weather—what it’s already done; perhaps you remember Hurricane Sandy?—will make your beachfront bungalow too unsafe to call home. The evidence, albeit predictive, is simply too hard to ignore.

For example: The number of people at risk from hurricane storm surges could double if the natural defenses—kelp forests, coral reefs, sand dunes, oyster beds, and the like—that protect U.S. coastlines are lost, says a new study published in the journal Nature Climate Change.

“Where we’ve got these ecosystems intact, we need to keep it that way,” study author Katie Arkema, a marine ecologist, said to Scientific American. “Otherwise, massive investments will be required to protect people and property.”

The scientists behind the new study created “a hazard model for the U.S. coast combining ecosystem data, projected climate scenarios, socioeconomic data and property values to identify where habitats offered the greatest coastal protection.”

Here are their findings:

Between 1.7 million and 2.1 million people will live in "high hazard" areas by 2100. Of those, up to 40,000 families will be below the poverty line and between $400 billion and $500 billion in residential property will be vulnerable to damage.

While we already knew that Miami’s ultimate vice may be its proximity to water, this study extended the predicament of being a low-lying locale in a rising water world to the entire Sunshine state.

Florida would see the largest increase of people exposed to hazards by 2100 under one sea-level rise scenario highlighted by the researchers. If coastal habitats were preserved, about 500,000 Floridians would face intermediate and high risk from disasters, compared with almost 900,000 people if the habitats disappeared.

This is just one report, true, but it falls in line with a slew of other climate change/extreme weather stories, the last of which came flashing across the wires last week when we learned that in our ever warming world the intensity of future hurricanes will increase by up to 45 percent by 2100.

So again: Sell and sell now, before your driveway looks like this.

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