South Florida — The Front Lines of Climate Change?

Two related items about climate change resilience and adaptation caught my eye this week.  First, the American Academy of Actuaries issued a report on “The National Flood Insurance Program: Challenges and Solutions.”  Those wild and crazy actuaries at the AAA certainly have a gift for understatement:

Increased flooding due to higher sea levels can only increase the amount of loss from storms absent expensive investment in coastal defenses. In the face of rising sea levels and increased losses, it will be impossible to maintain current premiums, coverage, and eligibility without severe limits on building, strong mitigation requirements, or exposure to enormous program losses and additional U.S. debt.

Focusing on South Florida in particular, Bloomberg BNA (subscription required) had a report today on “The Nightmare Scenario for Florida’s Coastal Homeowners.”  The BNA story does discuss the NFIP, but only as one aspect of a range of problems that could trigger:

a housing crisis for coastal areas more severe than the Great Recession, one that could spread through banks, insurers and other industries.

I’ve been astounded for some time at the continued willingness of investors to pour money into South Florida real estate and I particularly like this discussion of someone named Ross Hancock, who sold his property in Coral Gables:

He described South Florida’s real estate market as “pessimists selling to optimists,” and said he wanted to cash out while the latter still outnumbered the former.

I love that line.  And so, to paraphrase a bumper sticker many of us have seen, I will just close by noting that climate change doesn’t care if you’re an optimist or a pessimist.

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