By Roberta Isleib
December 15, 2105 — With talks on climate change wrapping up in Paris with an agreement signed between 196 nations, it seems like a good time to consider whether climate change should be factored into choosing your best place to retire. (And to be perfectly honest, one of our regular readers tweaked us recently to write an article on this subject, saying “retirees really need to know how climate change is affecting and will affect their retirement location.”)
So we’re hoping to set aside political agendas and ideologies today and explore some of the facts about where and how things are changing and how that might inform your retirement choices. Are there locations where you should not plan to retire, either in the near future or down the road? The answer – almost certainly.
The Washington Post reported this week that the president of Kiribati, a pacific nation consisting of 33 coral atolls, has purchased 8 mi.² in Fiji to prepare for the time when his entire population needs to be moved off the islands. That’s thinking ahead! This small island country and others believe that the time may come when their nation is under water. Extreme weather “king tides” and increasingly severe storms, have threatened many Pacific islands including Kiribati with erosion, fresh water contamination, and destruction of crops.
But it’s not only on the other side of the world that these changes have been witnessed. Coastal cities such as Miami and Key West are experiencing more frequent flooding. Major storms Sandy and Irene damaged coastlines and homes along the East Coast, raising difficult questions about whether new development should be allowed and whether existing homes should have the right to “armor their coasts” against the encroaching sea. Drought and wildfires are terrifying parts of the west as well.
So what’s a potential retiree to do? First and foremost, educate yourself.
COASTAL ISSUES: Are you considering a coastal retirement? NOAA has developed a coastal sea level rise estimator, which can give you an idea of what kind of flood risks might be involved in areas of your interest.
Coastal erosion is a concern in most states with beach borders. That includes almost all of Florida, the Gulf Coast, almost everything on the East Coast, and California. As an example, coastal geologist Chip Fletcher noted that Hawaii has experienced a century of sea level rise, which is expected to continue, possibly accelerate. Oahu’s north shore has seen the worst beach erosion in decades, leaving the city to wrestle with homeowners about how close to the water they can build, and whether they will be allowed to build seawalls in front of existing structures, which many believe contributes to erosion in neighboring properties.
Here’s a helpful article that helps explain the connection between sea-level rise and coastal erosion
It is not just coastal areas that are experiencing record floods. Even mountain states like Colorado and Vermont have had chaotic floods in recent years from storms that have dumped unbelievable amounts of rain in just a few hours. You need to study NOAA charts before you buy – yesterday’s 100 year storms are now a commonplace.
DROUGHT: A NASA study led by climate scientist Ben Cook suggests that the risk of mega-droughts in the southwest and central plains may very well increase over this century.California has been experiencing the drought of a century. Retirees considering those areas should investigate the status of both drought and the availability of water in their target states. Interested in drought predictions in California? Check out the National Weather Service climate prediction center.
WILDFIRES: And it’s not only coastal areas that are seeing extreme climate change. Worried about wildfires? (And who wouldn’t be?) Eleven western states, including Montana, Wyoming, Utah, and New Mexico are expected to experience more devastating wildfires as the earth’s temperature increases, resulting in drier conditions and longer fire seasons. You can check out this website to monitor drought and wildfire predictions. Are these a result of climate change? Not everyone agrees the correlation is direct, but most scientists believe that sea level rise and global warming are definite contributors.
DON’T FORGET INSURANCE COSTS
Undeterred by all this bad climate news? Even if you are not convinced sea levels are rising and severe weather events increasing, there is one other practical consideration. That would be insurance availability and costs. Wary of bankrupting weather calamities, fewer insurers are offering policies in flood and hurricane prone areas. They are also charging more, and requiring more specific precautions.
Bottom line? Don’t be an ostrich. Educate yourself about climate issues and problems in any area that you are considering!
More articles that may be of interest on this subject:
Rising Seas Swamping Coastal Real Estate Markets
How Scientists Explained Global Warming to Governor Rick Scott
Short Answers to Hard Questions About Climate Change
The Bermuda Triangle of Retiree Concerns
Comments? Are there places you might avoid retiring to because of what might happen because of climate change? Or there are other issues or places to be concerned about that we haven’t mentioned here? Please share your thoughts in the Comments section below.
About the Author
Isleib is a psychologist and writer, most recently the author of the Key West foodie mysteries as Lucy Burdette. KILLER TAKEOUT will be published in April.