Executive Summary re Sea Level Rise for Agora Financial‏
From:  john@johnenglander.net (agora@johnenglander.net)  

Sent: Tue 7/13/10 6:53 PM 
To:  Ben Oostdam (boostdam@hotmail.com) 
           re: Ben Oostdam story # 604
Executive Summary for Agora Financial
John Englander 2010 

Effects of Rising Sea Level on Coastal Real Estate
by John Englander 

Setting aside the exaggerations about climate change and
the political theater, rising sea level is something that
should not be ignored by anyone with coastal interests.

An objective look at the evidence shows that while the
assertions of twenty feet (6 m) of rise this century are
effectively scare tactics, estimates of 6 inches (15 cm)
are wishful thinking.

This issue has implications for where we live, for estate
planning, our investments, and our community. 

Similar to concerns about the national debt,
the rising sea level numbers pretty much speak for
themselves – and neither situation will improve with time.
Like today’s financial world, it is impossible to predict
how and when rising sea level will devastate a particular
piece of land.
If we see the bigger picture, however, we are much more
likely to be better positioned. A final parallel from
coastal property values to national debt is that the
collapse could start much sooner than is commonly realized. 

Here are 10 key points: (Note #9 in particular.)
(1) To understand rising sea level it is necessary to
consider both the natural cycles as well as the recent
warming forces.
Over geologic time, sea level has been up and down
hundreds of feet repeatedly.
During an ice age, for example, the ocean level drops
significantly as precipitation becomes frozen in ice
sheets more than a mile high.
These glacial periods occurred approximately ten times
during the last million years, spaced rather evenly,
with the last one peaking about 20,000 years ago.
Sea level was then 400 feet (120 m) lower than today. 

(2) Contrary to popular belief, the melting Arctic Ocean
(north pole) does not directly add to sea level rise,
as it is floating sea ice (like melting ice cubes in a glass).
What that melting does confirm is the very long term warming trend.
The Arctic has been frozen solid for 2 million years;
NASA photographs show the ice is melting so fast that it
will be generally ice free within the next 20-30 years
at the latest, a situation that was absolutely
inconceivable just decades ago. 

(3) Sea level has been almost constant for the last 6,000
years, a 'brief intermission' in the geologic cycles of
rise and fall.
Since this is roughly the same period as recorded human
history, it helps explain why we tend to doubt that
it will change much. 

(4) Sea level is now rising again, a modest 8 inches
(20 cm)in the last century, but the rate has doubled in
the last three decades, largely as a result of the
melting Greenland ice sheet, plus thermal expansion
–– as seawater warms, it actually expands.
The Antarctic (south pole) has vastly greater amounts of
ice to melt than Greenland and it too shows signs of
overall melting during the last couple of years ––
too early to confirm a pattern but cause for serious concern. 

(5) When the ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica melt
completely, sea level will be approximately 265 feet (80 m)
higher worldwide. Fortunately even the latest models
indicate that will take centuries, and perhaps more than
a thousand years. 

(6) Current estimates for sea level rise this century range
from 3-6 feet (1-2 m).
This means that by 2050 a 1-2 feet increase (50 cm) is
within reasonable possibility.
The projections keep moving upward as the melting in
Greenland and Antarctica continues to accelerate.
It is important to realize that even a few feet of rise
will have devastating effects, as
shorelines can move inland hundreds,even thousands of
feet for each foot of vertical rise.
Coastal real estate is destroyed by a combination
of sea level rise, more intense storms, and erosion.
This is what makes low lying coastal land so vulnerable.
(7) Sea level will rise for at least 500 years even
if greenhouse gas emissions are brought under control.
This results from the huge lag time for the atmosphere
and ocean layers to achieve a new temperature balance.
Small changes in ocean temperature and the lower atmosphere
determine the melt rate of the ice sheets. 

(8) Although very gradual, rising sea level’s effects
will be huge and unprecedented.
Furthermore, recent signs of thawing in Antarctica
support theories that even greater shifts are underway.
In the past sea level rise has exceeded one foot per
decade; it can happen again.
Regardless, rising sea level will impact not only
individual property owners, but communities, ports,
groundwater supplies, and navy bases,
to name just a few.
In many coastal areas, roads, railroads, airports,
marinas, sewage plants, and power stations
will be jeopardized.
There are major implications for national security.
Many island nations will be eliminated.
Just a couple of meters will displace several hundred
million people globally.
The shape of continents will change substantially.
These effects are already being looked at seriously
by the US military and related agencies, and even by some
local governments.
Different locations require appropriate solutions.
South Florida and Manhattan are often cited as similar
examples of what could happen, when in fact they are
very different in terms of shoreline profile and geologic
structure ––yielding very different options for protection. 

(9) Even if the significant physical effects of
rising sea level are not seen until the middle of this
century, the devaluation of coastal property could start
much sooner, possibly within a decade.
As it becomes commonly understood that sea level is
rising at a markedly different pace than during the last
few thousand years, the value of coastal real estate
will change.
During this century all low-lying coastal real estate
will be perceived as having a limited "lifespan",
rather than permanent.
A fundamental reason for real estate’s value, is an
underlying assumption that it exists in perpetuity–
an asset transferrable to others, including future
While generally true of most property, it is a myth
as it applies to vulnerable coastal property.
Markets can adjust to such new information rather
Those that are prepared for the inevitable can be
better positioned. 

(10) Denial and procrastination are shortsighted.
It is time to begin "intelligent adaptation."
In some locations adding a couple feet of seawall
and trying to simply hold back the ocean may work
for a while.
With an ever increasing ocean height however, those
investments will have a limited lifespan that will be
written off.
At an individual level, an informed perspective
may affect where we live, our investments, estate planning,
as well as business and corporate decisions.
At a public level, with good leadership we can
rise to the challenge with very large scale,
long timeframe engineering projects enabling adaptation
to substantially higher sea levels.
This can have a relatively positive ROI and turn an
ominous future into a positive one.
Such huge engineering and development projects could
create significant new economic value and
spur economic growth.
Consistent with geologic history, sea level is rising
again, and accelerating–– and will continue for hundreds
of years, reaching significant heights. 

The destruction of coastal property and infrastructure
will be profound and is largely disbelieved due to the
lack of any precedent in recorded human history. 
Those who can see the inevitable, will be better
positioned to avoid the terminal devaluation of all
coastal property that could start much sooner than
Like many dire situations, postponement and denial
only make things worse, as they delay implementation of
policies that can build a good base for future generations.
(A concept that will be familiar to readers of the
"5" where it usually applies to the debt crisis and
currency manipulation.) 
Permission to Share:
Explicit permission is hereby granted to share this material,
on the condition that there is full attribution to the author.
The author may be contacted at john@johnenglander.net

The information above is from the forthcoming book,
"High Tide on Main Street: Understanding Rising Sea Level
and the Impacts on Coastal Property”

that explains all of the above and more, including guidance regarding
personal property as well as future trends.
Register for publication announcement of the book and
any special offers at: book@johnenglander.net

John Englander consults and lectures on climate change and ocean impacts,
and has developed a special expertise about sea level - historical and future.
He combines broad oceanographic knowledge, with a strong business perspective.
John has been CEO of The Cousteau Society and
The International SeaKeepers Society.
His lectures and forthcoming book draw heavily on his diverse experience
and research including visits to Greenland, the Antarctic, and leading
diving expeditions under the polar ice cap.
John is a member of American Geophysical Union,
the American Association for the Advancement of Science,
The Explorers Club, and is a Fellow of the London-based,
Institute for Marine Engineering Science and Technology.

For information about private consultations and presentations
please see www.johnenglander.net/lectures-consulting
Disclaimer: All of the above information is the author's opinion
based on extensive research.
While it is presented without prejudiceor conflicting interest,
you should not make any decision regarding the sale of any asset
based solely on this general information.
Such decisions need to be based upon appropriate professional
advice relating to your particular situation.

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