Climate Change: Florida's Time Horizon

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den18
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Climate Change: Florida's Time Horizon

Post by den18 » Fri Jun 14, 2019 8:19 pm

Before I start please note that this is NOT a thread dedicated to debating climate change or whether it exists. This thread is based on the idea that it does in fact exist, will have a significant impact and how to work around it as individuals. If you do not believe it will have any impact you are of course welcome to your opinion but posting about it would not any value to this thread.

Okay, now that is out of the way I wanted to discuss Florida and the impact of owning coastal properties on it. Specifically this is due to Jacob mentioning the example of Retirees buying beach houses by accpeting the risk it could be washed away.

My parents bought their future retirement home in the Tamba Bay area and we have been using at as a vacation home in the meantime. Thier retirement time horizon is within a few years so they will getting a good bit of use out of it (by my estimates). Further it has also been helpful to me as I have some health conditions that the clean air, warm weather and sunlight in that area were quite healing for when I visit.

So with all that said what risks and in what time horizon are we looking at for owning a house in such an area due to climate change and rising sea levels? Are there any mitigation strategies and if not what point in the future would the risk no longer be sustainable to own property there in your opinion?

tonyedgecombe
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Re: Climate Change: Florida's Time Horizon

Post by tonyedgecombe » Sat Jun 15, 2019 3:29 am

If you really or your parents really want to live there isn't the obvious solution to rent rather than own. Let someone else take on the risk.

IlliniDave
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Re: Climate Change: Florida's Time Horizon

Post by IlliniDave » Sat Jun 15, 2019 5:34 am

In general things seem to be happening slower than the climate predictors predict. So if you have a lot of faith in them, their predictions probably present a reasonably conservative timeline. I don't know what they are predicting at this time.

Irrespective of sea level changes there's always been a real and ongoing risk of an oceanfront structure in Florida washing away due to storms. The price of flood insurance is presumably reflective of that. I've heard anecdotally that annual flood premiums are north of $10K for dwellings in an area susceptible to coastal storm surge on the Gulf side of the state. That data anecdote is 15 years old, so I suspect the current premiums might be significantly higher now. By comparison, part of my property is adjacent to a "500-year" flood zone of an inland river and my premium is < $500/yr.

Maybe a key thing to look into is getting a flood policy from FEMA/NFIP, or reading the fine print if they have one. I don't know if they have language in them yet whether they cover the possibility of a property being destroyed or rendered useless by rising ocean levels, you'll have to find the answer to that. It's potentially a hedge against any sort of sudden jump in sea level, but you will probably need to read a lot of fine print and/or ask a lot of questions to see if the policies would cover or exclude such an event. It would cover a storm surge event. It's worth noting that in the latter event the property generally remains even though the structure(s) might be destroyed.

I don't believe there are any "mitigation plans". There are a lot of relatively warm, sunny areas in the US with good air quality that aren't threatened by the potential of rising sea levels. Having the ocean as a neighbor in the southeast US comes with a lot of risk, more than I would be willing to take on.

bigato
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Re: Climate Change: Florida's Time Horizon

Post by bigato » Sat Jun 15, 2019 6:12 am

You are mistaken. Climate change is happening faster, sooner and stronger than predicted.

http://edition.cnn.com/2008/TECH/scienc ... index.html

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Re: Climate Change: Florida's Time Horizon

Post by jacob » Sat Jun 15, 2019 8:25 am

The risk to property is both direct and indirect.

The indirect risk is the one I would worry most about in the near term and that is that the real estate market wakes up to the fact that the housing is imputed. This would drop the value. A direct way of doing that is when insurance companies either require higher premiums or outright refuse to insure. A change in federal disaster relief policies could do the same. At this point the housing would become a consumable rather than an investment. I think they already have these issues in Miami. Such a shift can occur really rapidly because it is after all market based. Right now the market is still being propped up by enough "skeptics" at the margin.

There are ongoing political battles in coastal states as to whether one should legally have to include future impacts in surveys. For example, if you can mandate that only historic data can be considered, the "problem" goes away on paper... of course it doesn't go away in reality, but disappearing it on paper means that you can legally ignore it (and e.g. get a building permit you otherwise would not be able to obtain). What this means is that you can't really rely on the government (or real estate developers) to have your best interests in mind.

Tampa Bay is one of the highest at-risk coastal cities in the world. http://www.worldbank.org/en/news/featur ... isk-floods The biggest risk in Tampa Bay is a hurricane. This is already a risk. Note that other big cities are also on the list. Of course, Miami, the epicenter/canary. Also New York and New Orleans both of which have already seen flooding. And Boston. You can use these examples as a case study of what could just as easily happen in Tampa Bay. It obviously depends on where you live in relation to the water.

As for sea rise, this is something that is consistently tracking in the upper band of the uncertainty range(*) http://www.ccrc.unsw.edu.au/sites/defau ... is_LOW.pdf (see page 39) and IIRC, the 2100 ranges were just increased again(**). This is particularly important for southern Florida which is rather flat. If land has a gradient of 1%, then a foot of sea rise moves the "beach" and the areas subject to storm surge inland by 100ft. Obviously these gradients are local. Note that a storm surge would layer in on top of this. However, even if your particular house is safe, that doesn't matter if the rest of the neighborhood is razed ... or property taxes go up because the city needs to build storm walls to defend land that should better be surrendered but isn't.

(*) This is because of uncertainties in melt rates, particularly Greenland. It's just really hard to figure out how large ice masses melt with all their fissures, etc. Thermal expansion is in contrast easier to figure out.

(**) Also a reminder that life or physics does not stop in 2100 or 81 years from now. Thermal expansion and heat transport is a slow process and will continue for a long time after we stabilize the atmosphere---if we stabilize it. (See page 40 in the pdf above) The beach lines two hundred years from now will not be where they are now. Many major cities will have part of their old buildings, etc. under water. It's already locked in. The question is whether the can retreat and rebuild, e.g. a new harbor further inland, etc. This will be very expensive. Overall, 80 years from now, we're looking about about 2-4 feet. 180 years from now, it's 4-10 feet. Waterfronts will be unrecognizable, because they will basically be new ones.

Your biggest direct threat is a hurricane + storm surge. This should be well familiar to everybody living in that area, and so the risk/fear is normalized. Hurricanes can already happen now. If a cat5 hits Tampa Bay, you're looking at the equivalent of New Orleans. The actual impact depends very much on what the local government has set up in terms of responses. I don't know anything about that. As we saw with NOLA, that was an epic shit show. In that regard, I think a concern would be whether a) one takes evacuation warnings seriously and leaves outright (rather than the derps who wait until tomorrow and get stuck in giant backups on the freeway); and b) whether one is physically capable of evacuating (has a car and the ability to drive). Imagine for a moment how a retirement home gets evacuated. IIRC, there were some issues in NOLA. Wasn't a group left behind? Add: https://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/14/worl ... eaths.html

Bonus: There's been talk about south Florida (very flat and a tax source) seceding from north Florida (not so flat and a tax sink) over this. This is another kind of risk. Random link: https://www.miaminewtimes.com/news/51st ... on-7548539 If my understanding is correct, splitting a state requires [both state and federal] congressional approval, so ... prob. not gonna happen.

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Re: Climate Change: Florida's Time Horizon

Post by jacob » Sat Jun 15, 2019 8:42 am

Apparently, people have thought about it ...
https://www.wunderground.com/blog/JeffM ... atast.html
https://www.nola.com/hurricane/2017/07/ ... pared.html
https://www.tampabay.com/hurricane-guid ... _172683573
https://www.wtsp.com/article/weather/tr ... -466385424

TL;DR - A Cat5 at high tide would cause a 25ft+ storm surge with $175-225B in damage, 500,000 homes destroyed, 2 million injured, and 2000 dead.

If it was me, I'd pick an apartment in one of the hurricane-proof buildings (obviously a few floors up) and stack up on water (use waterbricks) and food supplies for a few weeks. Don't forget sanitation. Also have a car with a full tank of gas and be ready to go (you need to beat 3.5M other people trying to leave the theater on fire). In practice, I've already made it a point not to live in any county containing ocean-front property unless it's on the west coast.

bigato
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Re: Climate Change: Florida's Time Horizon

Post by bigato » Sat Jun 15, 2019 8:51 am

What's special about the west coast, are hurricanes not likely there?

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Re: Climate Change: Florida's Time Horizon

Post by jacob » Sat Jun 15, 2019 9:16 am

No. Hurricanes [at that latitude] go to the west (think trade winds) and north, so anything forming in the Pacific hits Asia. This is the same reason why there are no hurricanes hitting Africa or southern Europe. Hurricanes can't form with water surface temperatures under 80F/27C. This is also why they are not seen at higher latitudes. Insofar the Earth enters a hothouse stage, it would be possible to form hurricanes at European latitudes (~50N). These would indeed blow east and hit England and Northern Europe. IIRC, the Atlantic is getting warm enough that it's beginning to become possible for hurricanes to hit South America i.e. go west and south from the southern Atlantic.

As for ocean rise, the land gradient is steeper on the west coast, except for select places like e.g. the bay area.

chenda
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Re: Climate Change: Florida's Time Horizon

Post by chenda » Sat Jun 15, 2019 9:41 am

I've heard of cases where insurance companies won't pay for demolition costs if the building is rendered structurally unsound, leaving the owners with a liability. So that might be something to check.

Seppia
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Re: Climate Change: Florida's Time Horizon

Post by Seppia » Sat Jun 15, 2019 9:51 am

Thanks Jacob for the usual great posts on the subject. I'm always fascinated by your thoughts on the matter.

IlliniDave
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Re: Climate Change: Florida's Time Horizon

Post by IlliniDave » Sat Jun 15, 2019 11:00 am

I don't think insurance companies will even write a flood policy any more in the US, I think FEMA/NFIP is the only choice (it became that way for me about 8-10 years ago). I think the best option in the event of an incoming hurricane is to heed warnings to evacuate, or better yet evacuate voluntarily ahead of time to in case of any last minute changes in a storm or its path (Katrina is a notorious example of a last-minute surprise). The majority of human casualties are often caused when people don't cooperate regarding evacuation and endanger both themselves and first responders.

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Ego
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Re: Climate Change: Florida's Time Horizon

Post by Ego » Sat Jun 15, 2019 11:12 am

A few years ago Trump talked about revising the NFIP so that rates where driven by risk. At the time I thought it was a good idea. Whatever happened to that?

Jason
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Re: Climate Change: Florida's Time Horizon

Post by Jason » Sat Jun 15, 2019 12:38 pm

Florida = God's waiting room.

Whether its a heart attack at the early bird special or a tidal wave taking someone and everything they own out to sea, people go to Florida to die. Everyone's got a limited time horizon to begin with. Let them enjoy it until they don't.

IlliniDave
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Re: Climate Change: Florida's Time Horizon

Post by IlliniDave » Sat Jun 15, 2019 3:24 pm

Ego wrote:
Sat Jun 15, 2019 11:12 am
A few years ago Trump talked about revising the NFIP so that rates where driven by risk. At the time I thought it was a good idea. Whatever happened to that?
I think it's still in limbo (see first sentence of 4th paragraph), but there are some administrative changes that might go into effect next year.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions ... 92a1fe1cc8

Jason
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Re: Climate Change: Florida's Time Horizon

Post by Jason » Sat Jun 15, 2019 4:19 pm

Being in a flood plain/flood zone is different than being in a FEMA designated flood area.

If a property is in a designated FEMA flood zone, one must use government backed FEMA insurance. It's a racket as it's non-negotiable and mandatory if the property is bank financed (if you own outright, you can take whatever risks you want). This differs from basic flood insurance on properties that are not specifically in FEMA zones but still run risks of flooding.

FEMA has to be the most incompetent government body in the history of government bodies. I have seen properties across the street from one another where one is in a FEMA zone and one is not. The difference materially is non-existent but economically could be up to $.50 per square foot for the mandatory FEMA flood insurance.

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Re: Climate Change: Florida's Time Horizon

Post by jennypenny » Sat Jun 15, 2019 6:11 pm

Tampa is probably the best choice in Florida among coastal cities. Evacuations are easier from that area and, in general, the population can afford to evacuate and/or rebuild if necessary. I think the most important issue is that your parents have a plan in place for all potential situations.

I'd be concerned (as their child) whether they would be willing and physically able to evacuate if a storm was approaching. My in-laws live on a barrier island but refuse to evacuate during storms -- including Sandy -- even though they would only be coming to our house and not a hotel. It's ridiculous and IMO not a rational approach. Your parents should have plans in place for exactly where to go and clear triggers for when to evacuate. I'd also encourage them to move if they ever got to the point where it became physically or financially too difficult to evacuate on their own.

As far as the property -- most retirement-only housing is a terrible investment. If they can afford to live there and know the risks, I don't see a problem with it. Again, I'd discuss it with them. What they would do if the area started to flood routinely or if they lost their house in a storm? Do they have a plan for that? Would they be able to afford to walk away and start over somewhere else? If they've got things covered, I don't see any reason not to live where they love.

FIRE 2018
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Re: Climate Change: Florida's Time Horizon

Post by FIRE 2018 » Tue Jul 23, 2019 3:57 pm

I'm not concerned about climate change. I'm more worried about hurricanes that I have survived thru and future ones and the millions of gators and snakes in Florida. I've seen them up close and it's not a tourist attraction. The local kids feed them snacks but one day they will be a snack themselves. But a cold beer with deep fried gator nuggets is the way to go!

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Re: Climate Change: Florida's Time Horizon

Post by jacob » Tue Jul 23, 2019 4:07 pm

A good example of how "climate change" in abstract minds turns into "extreme weather" in concrete minds, and ultimately "remember when" in anecdotal minds.

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Re: Climate Change: Florida's Time Horizon

Post by tonyedgecombe » Wed Jul 24, 2019 3:42 am

FIRE 2018 wrote:
Tue Jul 23, 2019 3:57 pm
But a cold beer with deep fried gator nuggets is the way to go!
Apart from the mercury which seems to accumulate at alarming rates in these predators.

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