A few climate change tidbits

There was good news, bad news and ludicrous news that occurred this week. Here is a Friday rundown.

On the good news front, The Charlotte Observer did an excellent editorial called “Federal disaster relief: Tossing cash in the ocean in NC.” The gist is the US Army Corps of Engineers is spending “$237 million to rebuild dunes and widen the beach on 10 miles of Topsail Island shoreline.” The sad part is the rebuild is occurring only a year after an earlier rebuild. Per Orrin Pilkey a Duke emeritus professor of geology and an expert on coastal erosion, “‘These projects can only be characterized as madness. The sea-level rise is clearly accelerating, increasing intense storms are expected as has happened in the last four years, and the amounts of money spent on these beaches will need to be expended again and again for years into the future.'” Per the Observer, “piling cash into the sand won’t stop that for long.” Ten years ago, the largest global pension trustees did a study that noted the cost of addressing climate change was in the multiple tens of trillions of US dollars.

On the ludicrous front, US Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin decided to follow his boss’ lead and pick on Greta Thunberg. In essence, Mnuchin said she needs to go back and get an economic degree and then explain why we should fight climate change. OK, Mr. Mnuchin, please tell me how spending cash to rebuild sand dunes over and over again makes financial sense? Help explain why the present value cost of renewable energy such as wind and solar, which includes the cost of acquisition, transportation, environmental degradation, production, maintenance of byproduct, and litigation is far cheaper than the present value cost of coal energy? And, while your at it, why did a Mayor, with an accounting background, in a Texas town choose a 100% renewable energy proposal over a fossil fuel one due to cost and guaranteed pricing for twenty-five years? What this shows to me is grown people are trying to denigrate a young girl as if they do, then climate change is not an issue.

On the bad news front, the courts threw out the climate change inaction case against the US by twenty-one children and now young adults. The case had merit and moved up to a district courts where it was dismissed by a 2 to 1 vote. The courts did agree with the plea to do more about climate change, but did not feel the case warranted further action. It has spawned other cases in other cities and helped fuel an advocacy to do something about climate change. What the plaintiffs will do next is uncertain at this point. It should be noted the suit against Exxon Mobil by three states is still pending. Using Exxon’s own data, the lead state New York Attorney General, is arguing that Exxon Mobil misled its shareholders and possible investors on the impact of climate change on its financials. That is securities fraud under the guise of the SEC.

The takeaways from the above are clear in my mind. Dealing with climate change is a “pay me now or pay me later” proposition. A key is we cannot put the climate back together again if we wait too long to act more aggressively. I have quoted Pilkey before, but one message bears repeating. People would be foolish to buy property on the shore and should think about selling what they have now. That cuts to the chase.

The other takeaway is the young people get it. The older people in positions of power either don’t get it or cannot say that they do, as they take so much funding from the fossil fuel industry. Coal is in the demise and more coal plants have been closed under this president than under his predecessors. That would be a good question for Messers. Mnuchin and Trump that Ms. Thunberg might want to ask. She might also want to ask why the Trump Organization petitioned, in writing, the Irish government to build a sea wall at a Trump golf course to hold back the rising ocean due to climate change. It does not take an economist to call BS on that one.

Two rising sea stories from today

In my newspaper today, two articles caught my eye about the impact of rising seas. The first is an editorial entitled “Rising seas eroding coastal property values,” written by Orrin Pilkey, the co-author of a study of this subject.

The other is an article called “Highest tide in 50 years swamps Venice,” by Elisabetta Povoledo of The New York Times. Beginning with the sensational, per Povoledo, “The Mayor of Venice, who said that the city ‘was on its knees’ has called for a state of emergency and the closing of all schools after the Italian city was submerged under…an exceptionally high tode – the highest in 50 years.”

At six-feet, the rising sea level in Venice waa the most since 1966. Yet, per the article, “Last year, as severe weather in Italy killed 11 people, ferocious winds drove the high tide in Venice to more than five feet above average sea level.”

In Pilkey’s editorial, the study was reported in his book with Keith Pilkey called “Sea level rise: a slow Tsunami on America’s shores.” “The First Foundation, a non-profit research group with flood risk, analyzed 13.3 million real estate transactions, and compared the results to 25.6 million properties along the east coast and Gulf coast of the US. They concluded that there was a $15.8 billion loss in home value appreciation between Maine and Texas from 2015 to 2017.”

Pilkey made reference to increasing “sunny day flooding.” They note the sunny day flooding will increase even more until it becomes more permanent. In essence the sea water comes up through the storm drains in the street leaving standing water. A key quote toward the end of the article is a warning. “I know that if my family were living in or near a sunny day flooding area, I would urge them to sell and leave.”

Low lying coastal cities are at great risk. Global climate scientists have long said the City of Miami is the most at risk city in the world. Miami Beach is already seeing many more days of sunny day flooding. The state that had the most property loss in value is Florida. I would hope the leaders of that state would be banging the drum the loudest. As for Venice, they rely so much on tourism. Yet, that future looks to be at grave risk given its low sea level status.

Note: Below are two links to these articles:

https://www.newsobserver.com/opinion/article237245139.html

Note further: A famous climate change “denier” in words does not match his rhetoric with his actions. Per a Politico article in May, 2016 entitled “Trump acknowledges climate change — at his golf course:”

“The New York billionaire is applying for permission to erect a coastal protection works to prevent erosion at his seaside golf resort, Trump International Golf Links and Hotel Ireland, in County Clare. A permit application for the wall, filed by Trump International Golf Links Ireland and reviewed by POLITICO, explicitly cites global warming and its consequences — increased erosion due to rising sea levels and extreme weather this century — as a chief justification for building the structure.” These actions support the concerns of the Pilkey study of property values being at risk due to sea level rise.