A recent article in The New York Times titled: Perils of Climate Change Could Swamp Coast Real Estate, indicates that rising seas and storm-related flooding in Florida appear to be driven by climate change and may be having direct impacts on the coastal real estate market (NYT Coastal Real Estate). Acknowledging that the incoming Trump administration has given new life to doubts about climate change, the article notes some actual changes in coastal areas due to sea levels and the impact of storms on local flooding not for the fact the conditions have occurred, but for the impact of the changes. The practical point is that banks and insurers are being advised of the need to protect collateral and investors by improving their methods of evaluating and addressing climate-change risks. This advice appears to be taking hold regardless of the ebb and flow of the prolonged debate over whether the climate is changing at all.

Nonetheless, there is increasing attention being given to strategies for coping with climate change on coastal communities due primarily to the appearance of sea level rise. In the U.S., that sea level rise is demonstrated fairly dramatically by information on an EPA website regarding climate impacts on coastal areas (EPA Coastal Climate Impacts). Interestingly, EPA notes not only the prospect of sea level rise due to ice melts, but also the fact that lands in certain coastal areas are actually subsiding as an apparent result of oil and water extraction activities and tectonic movement.

With respect to actions that local officials in some of the impacted coastal areas are taking, the Climate Institute has surveyed activities in coastal cities globally, including in the United States. The Institute recommends consideration of a number of actions, including: protecting any natural barrier islands; erective artificial breakwaters offshore; maintaining artificial sea walls and levees; focusing on shoreline and wetland restoration as a primary “first and best” method of protection to bolster any sea walls and levees; and, promoting community education about the potential for flooding and storm surge and the need to make preparations to protect the areas where possible, and to evacuate whenever necessary.

The impacts of climate change are also not expected to be limited to coastal areas. Weather.com has developed a Climate Disruption Index and lists 25 U.S. cities most likely to be affected by climate change (Disruption Index). While most of the cities listed are on or very near a coastline, others within the Top 10 include Minneapolis (#2), Las Vegas (#3) and Kansas City (#5). These three are included in the list along with other non-coastal areas due to apparent marked increases in temperature and reductions in precipitation.

While there may be a continued debate over whether, and to what extent, climate change is occurring in some locations, in other very specific locations apparent impacts are affecting communities. At the very least, local businesses and government officials are increasingly finding it necessary to treat the threat as a real one.