Coastal Construction on the Rise—But So is Sea Level

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Robison Wells
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“Coastal ... real estate development is continuing to be faster than inland, which means we are continuing to put ourselves at risk,” says Susan Wachter, a real estate professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.

About 49 million homes are within a few hundred feet of an increasingly rising coastline. With climate change a more accepted and recognized reality that is facing the world’s population, one would think that coastal property would be decreasing in value as residents flee inland, but that is not the case. Many homes near the coast are appreciating in value—faster than the ones inland—despite worse storms and higher water levels, which scientists equate with rising water temperatures. Places like Hilton Head, South Carolina, a 69 square mile island town of 40,000 people, could lose as much as half their livable land in the next 80 years.

“There is over $1 trillion worth of infrastructure within 700 feet of the coast,” says A.R. Siders, a Harvard University social scientist who studies relocation as a solution to climate change. “Even if one-tenth of those people needed to relocate, we are talking about orders of magnitude we have never [seen] before.”

Near the town of Charleston, estimates say that 15% of homes will be flooding every year in 50 years, compared to 1% today, but that hasn’t stopped the rapid expansion of the town. 761 homes were built in a danger zone in the last decade. South Carolina has become a second-Florida—a cheaper, faster-growing alternative for retirees than the state to the south.

To read more on the problem of constructing buildings in climate danger zones, read the Christian Science Monitor.

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