Saturday, July 07, 2012

Head in the sand: coastal property prices and sea level rise

If you own property in vulnerable low-lying coastal areas and yet have been keeping your head in the sand about sea level rise, you probably deserve to face the crippling loss of value and insurance premium hikes coming your way. Moves like this from Gosford council are an attempt to delay the inevitable. For the record, I think the NSW government ought to give clear direction to councils on such matters, but radical shifts in property values are ultimately inevitable. Trying to keep this fact from potential buyers through lobbying councils or any other means is a form of fraud. The best thing that most owners concerned about loss of value can do is campaign hard for aggressive mitigation and so prolong the period before retreat becomes necessary. There will be social tipping points on this issue as more people wake up to the fact that certain locations are increasingly vulnerable to storm surges and salt water intrusion. At some point, these properties will become unsellable, uninsurable and then, ultimately, unliveable. Some areas may have sufficient resources to afford coastal defences, but this is never going to be feasible for every piece of coastline. And even with the most aggressive and effective emissions mitigation, we are still going to see multi-metre sea level rise over the next few centuries, including probably something like a metre this century. Without such mitigation, it will be many times worse and is likely to continue rising for millennia.

This is one of the "sunk costs" of our failure to act on the knowledge we've had for decades about the dangers of basing our lives on the accumulated solar energy of eons past.