When we think of the raft of risks we now face from climate change and how they may affect things like property prices, new development and how we live on our homes it can get rather scary. Thinking North Carolina as leading light in how to deal with these issues is certainly not something that would spring to mind for most people and in a way, they would be right, but in another this somewhat unremarkable part of the USA has made some decisions that all countries can learn from.
Flooding is certainly getting worse in many parts of the world and Britain is no different. Mitigation, flood planning and investment are all now critical political issues as well as the need for flood risk consultants for all planning in flood zones and most developments. However, there is always more to be done and the unbelievable way North Carolina faced this growing risk certainly helps!
North Carolina just so happens to be considered one of the most at-risk states in the US in terms of rising sea levels. It is known for stunning beaches, great beachside properties and generally a place where the sea is welcoming. The local tourist industry has been thriving for many years and as such the threat of rising seal levels is a very big issue. As with many areas a fall in property prices, a loss of useable beachside land or regular damage and flooding would be catastrophic for tourism and the businesses and people that rely on it.
What Did North Carolina Do?
Well, they didn’t do what any normal person would expect? When faced with a report that said the area would be looking at sea level rises of 39 inches within 100 years the local government didn’t act, they didn’t create flood defences and begin a detail campaign to protect the area. No, they passed a law that made any policy based on such predictions illegal. Any kind of policy that used the data was not just ignored it was deemed against the law.
So rather than adapting to the new the overriding plan was simply to assume the results would be far less serious and so not as big an issue. Many of the people involved at the time this happened which was 2012, looked at other less severe reports and said the main data was using an extreme model. One of the sponsors of the bill suggested the science panel should use science everyone can trust and not nightmare scenario data.
It was said that any report or policy that would unnecessarily damage property prices and business in the area was not wanted. Of course, rising sea levels certainly do affect coastal property values and business if left unchecked. So it was deemed acceptable to simply ignore the reports and hope the worst didn’t happen in order to protect the financial interests of the local area.
The bill was passed, and it required the coastal resource commission to conduct another study in 2015. This study only looked 30 years ahead and the results suggested juts a 6-8 inch rise in sea levels over this time period. An outside report by the Union of Concerned Scientists suggested, however, the area would be “chronically inundated” with seawater by 2035. This report was once again considerably different to what the local government wanted.
The stance has since been altered and the government are now signing up to follow the Climate Change pledge in relation to reducing greenhouse gases that Donald Trump pulled out of. Along with states like New Jersey many are still following this plan despite the lack of presidential support. But there is still somewhat of an unspoken plan to not respond until the situation gets worse.
What Can We Learn?
When it comes to UK property the big “take home” here is to embrace the reports, embrace the change and start implementing solutions. This is happening! How fast it happens and how bad it will get is still up for debate but ignoring it will only cost more money in the long run. Investment in flood defences now (like this recent fresh investment – https://www.gov.uk/government/news/40m-extra-funding-to-better-protect-thousands-of-homes-against-flooding ) will mean less in the future, taking time to plan things properly will help protect coastal tourism. Rushing the construction of a sea wall in 30 years’ time could be too late!
It is natural to want to look after our investments in property and business but ignoring obvious information in favour of a “hit and hope” approach is unlikely to win in the long run. Prepare now, invest now and continue to see a return. Ignore now and while the short-term revenue might be good the long-term crash could be just a few years away.