Climate Shift Is Already Impacting the East Coast: What You Need to Know

Reader Contribution by Kayla Matthews
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Climate shift is a phenomenon that people often think about in abstract terms. Even if they accept that it’s happening, they frequently assume its effects won’t be evident during their lifetimes. However, scientific evidence is proving them wrong, especially on the East Coast of the United States.

Coastal Infrastructure Is at Risk Due to Sea Level Rise

Developers frequently built coastal infrastructure on low-elevation land to save money. However, analysts warn that power plants, wastewater treatment facilities and transportation networks could get shut down due to extensive flooding that’s becoming increasingly likely to happen due to climate change.

Scientists point out that as sea levels rise, the amount of rainfall that has to occur before significant problems happen goes down. Plus, the rain or snow generated by storms is different than it once was. Small storms bring the same amount of moisture as larger ones did, while the bigger ones are more intense than ever.

During March 2018 alone, national weather data indicates that four nor’easter storms hit the East Coast region. Plus, some cities in that area had more snow during March than the preceding winter months combined.

Researchers say climate change is not the only factor that contributed to those storms, but it likely gave momentum to their intensity. They bring up the exceptionally high ocean temperatures in areas off the Atlantic coast as an element of climate shift that could cause higher-than-normal snowfalls.

Elevation and Coastal Flooding Risk Factor Into Property Investments

Both scientific research and the experiences of real estate professionals in some East Coast markets confirm that investors are keeping rising sea levels and climate shift in mind when considering whether to invest in properties. Specifically, land that’s at a greater risk of flooding sells for less than properties on higher ground.

One Massachusetts real estate agent even had to sell a home with a private beach for 9 percent less than the list price and said it was on the market for nearly two months, which is reportedly substantially longer than usual. The impact on the real estate market will only become magnified if climate shift ends up causing people to move out of areas with a high probability of flooding or never relocating there at all.

Statistics from the 2017 BDO Board Survey, which polled board members, found that shareholders want more disclosure about the kinds of sustainability efforts made by companies. Shareholders likely balk at investing in companies that do not have sustainability plans in place or believe climate shift will not disrupt their business operations. As a result, organizations typically prioritize environmental sustainability as a long-term aim. They realize that now is the time to start altering their practices and keeping the future in mind.

Urban Planners Stay Mindful of Potential Flooding

A report relied on tidal gauges at 98 locations to see how often tidal flooding rose to or above levels that would probably disrupt daily life. Although regional fluctuations existed, scientists found that the likelihood of high-tide flooding nationwide was double the probability of 30 years ago.

That reality has not escaped the minds of urban planners who know they cannot afford to ignore the ramifications of tidal floods. Boston is in the middle of an initiative to safeguard against flooding that includes elevated streets and new flood walls. Planners in Norfolk, Virginia, want to rewrite the city’s zoning codes, requiring newer buildings to be more resilient against flooding than the current ones.

City representatives in New York are taking a similar approach by writing new guidelines for developers involved in constructing flood-ready buildings. They have also put the subway’s ventilation grates at higher-than-usual positions to protect the transportation system proactively.

Rising Sea Levels Are Not Universal

One factor that makes sea levels challenging to cope with is the fact that they don’t rise at the same levels around the world. Scientists created a model of potential future flooding of 20 global cities and found that places like New York and Boston could experience rates that are twice the national average, while other cities could be up to 25 percent below the mean.

Weather experts believe that by 2100, high-tide flooding could happen as frequently as every other day along the East Coast. They also say factors like melting glaciers could cause a sea level rise of as much as 6 feet this century. The phenomenon of rising sea levels causes what’s known as sunny day flooding because it happens in the absence of storms. Experts believe coastal cities along the continental U.S. will notice the effects of higher sea levels more than any other aspect of climate shift.

Climate Change Cannot Be Ignored

Collective research emphasizes that people cannot afford to think of climate shift as something that’ll be most apparent someday. It’s already happening — particularly along the East Coast — and even destinations in other parts of the country that aren’t primarily affected yet will eventually see stronger signs of the changing climate, too.

Photo by Sven on Unsplash

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