As the climate changes and sea levels rise, the world of coastal real estate is changing — but not yet adapting.
As always, it's ultimately a battle between developers who want to make money — and have lots to spread around to make sure their "needs" are met — and the public, which has to clean up the messes left behind with their hard-earned tax dollars.
There's an excellent view of that dynamic in what's happening around Chesapeake Bay. This report via grist.org and the Bay Journal News Service is thorough and revealing (my emphasis and some reparagraphing):
In Northumberland County, Va., the Board of Supervisors has tentatively approved a massive home/resort/marina complex on Bluff Point, a marshy, wooded peninsula jutting into the Chesapeake Bay from Virginia’s lovely Northern Neck. The rural county — four stoplights, 13,000 residents — acknowledges in its master development plan that sea levels are rising, and places Bluff Point in a “conservation” zone; but after consulting experts paid for partly by the developer, the supervisors granted an “exception.”As my old Uncle Straight Talk reminds me: "What do you call it when developers are the only ones with money? Mission accomplished."
It’s the latest example, on the shores of North America’s largest estuary, of science getting drowned out when developers wave big money at county officials craving revenue. And it’s an important story, as the Chesapeake is something of a ground zero for climate change: At the same time sea levels are rising, the land around the bay is sinking as a result of local geology. Larger-than-ever storm surges are a certainty.
The article is very good on the list of issues, from loss of wetlands to increased water levels to increased storm surges:
At Bluff Point, the developer may put some houses on poles as high as 8 feet in the air if needed; and that might seem reasonable, given sea level could rise about 3 feet in the next century, according to Virginia’s Climate Change Commission. But this ignores that a foot of rise, with the Chesapeake’s flattish edges, can move the Bay inland as much as 180 feet, and you can’t put roads and sewer lines on 8-foot poles. Then there are storm surges. In 2006, Tropical Storm Ernesto caused surges along Virginia’s Bay shore of 4-5 feet, with 6-8 foot waves rolling atop that.Chesapeake Bay is also home to naval shipyards, posing additional problems (for the shipbuilders).
As the writer says, the time has come to "plan an orderly human retreat from more development" along the once desirable coastline and edges of the Bay.
Will that happen? Almost certainly; at some point in the next 100 years even the diehards won't touch a coastal house.
I'm more concerned about the social cost. The war between people with money and those without can only sharpen with every "win" the greed-and-ego freaks manage to notch. That war is driven from one side only — the money side — and unless Money stands down, it will be increasingly opposed.
What will that opposition look like? It will look like the War on Terror come home, partly because it will be marketed as "domestic eco-terror" — and partly because that's what popular rebellions always look like. Don't you think Syria is ringing the "terrorist" bell as loudly as it can, at the same time as the state's enemies are ringing that bell back?
The clocks are ticking; and I think this clock is ticking more slowly than others (the "peak oil" bell is clanging rather loudly in my poor ears). But there are no guarantees. If the Mother of the Daddy of all Storms takes out the whole of Hilton Head next year, well ... you can bet the climate wars will pop to the top of the stack, for both sides in the battle.
Action Opportunity — The good news is that these are all local battles and can be locally won by activists. Do you live near the Chesapeake? Read the article carefully, then get involved in the issues outlined there. You can make a difference.
As the article intimates, there are lot of Chesapeake "opportunities," just waiting for your help to fix themselves.