Climate change is accelerating sea-level rise, and there’s mounting evidence of the financial toll it’s taking--and will take--on the American people.

A new analysis by First Street Foundation estimates that property value losses from coastal flooding in 17 states were nearly $16 billion from 2005 to 2017. Florida, New Jersey, New York, and South Carolina each saw more than $1 billion in losses.

The greatest loss was in Ocean City, N.J.: $500 million. Miami Beach was second, with more than $300 million in home value wiped out.

While some groups have estimated the value of property at risk in the future, the new report is the first to provide specific data over such a broad area about the real estate effects that have already happened, according to Columbia University’s Jeremy Porter, the lead author of First Street’s report. The researchers looked at 25.6 million coastal properties.

Porter told InsideClimate News’ Nicholas Kusnetz that while they found that prices generally increased, even in neighborhoods with recurrent flooding, property values in areas with nuisance flooding were rising much more slowly. That difference accounts for their total estimated loss in value. The researchers plan to release data in coming months for the rest of the coastal U.S. and then move on to major rivers.

Taxpayers could be hit in any number of ways. The credit rating agency Moody's Investors Service has warned local governments that they could face lower ratings if they fail to adapt to climate change, a decision that would raise the cost of borrowing money through bonds.

Homeowners can find the property value information on a website called FloodIQ. What they are finding there "really hits home for a lot of folks -- the idea that 'OK, well, what should I do now?' Or 'do I need to take some resilience measures?' Or 'is it time to move?' A whole host of options come up, and you can see them thinking it through," Matthew Eby, First Street Foundation's executive director, said in an interview with CBS MoneyWatch.

Farmers, too, are in harm’s way. Hyde County, along the North Carolina coast, has been part of a declared disaster zone during four of the past five years. Heavy rainfall and strong winds have caused millions of dollars in damage. Hurricanes Matthew (2016) and Florence (2018) brought several feet of storm surge that inundated the area with seawater, Sarah Kaplan reported in a page-one Washington Post story.

Due to rising seas, sinking earth and extreme weather, salt from the Atlantic is contaminating aquifers and turning formerly fertile fields barren. A 2016 study in the journal Science predicted that nine percent of the U.S. coastline is vulnerable to saltwater intrusion — a percentage likely to grow as the world continues to warm.

Kaplan visited Dawson Pugh, a third-generation Hyde County farmer who grows soybeans, cotton, and corn. Portions of his land have become too salty to produce. “We spend a lot of time and money to try to prevent salt,” Pugh told her. “I worry what the future is. If it keeps getting worse, will it be worth farming?” Pugh estimates that recent flooding — and the associated salinization — have cost him $2 million in lost crops over the past five years.

Though it’s known that saltwater intrusion is linked to sea-level rise caused by climate change, scientists aren’t certain how salt winds up in farmers’ fields. Scientists are increasingly concerned that rising sea levels are shifting the “zone of transition” — the underground gradient where fresh groundwater meets salty seawater.

These climate-change costs should be included in the price of carbon--but they aren’t. Isn’t it time that Congress enacted a carbon fee so that we move to an honest price?


It has now become possible to move hundreds of miles without packing a single box or paying for a moving van. You can thank climate change.

“Sixty years from now, climate change could transform the East Coast into the Gulf Coast,” The Atlantic’s Robinson Meyer wrote. “It will move Minnesota to Kansas, turn Tulsa into Texas, and hoist Houston into Mexico. Even Oregonians might ooze out of their damp, chilly corner and find themselves carried to the central valley of California.”

These projections are from a creative study by Matthew Fitzpatrick, a professor at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, and Robert R. Dunn, a biology professor at North Carolina State University. “I was shocked, to be honest,” at how southerly many cities would soon feel, Fitzpatrick told Meyer.

The study, published in Nature Communications February 12, looked at 12 variables for 540 U.S. and Canadian cities under two climate change scenarios to find out what the future might feel like in a way a regular person might understand. Fitzpatrick, the lead author, and Dunn averaged the climate results from 27 different computer models and then found the city that most resembles that futuristic scenario.

If you’re not too scared about what you might find, check out how the city nearest you could feel. Their results are at this website:  “Wow. The science here isn’t new, but it’s a great way to bring the impacts to the local-scale user,” Northern Illinois University climate scientist Victor Gensini told Seth Borenstein, AP’s veteran science correspondent.

The 540 cities on average move 528 miles to the south climate-wise, if carbon emissions keep soaring. If the world cuts back, the cities move on average 319 miles.

And while we’re imagining warmer temperatures, many of us eventually may have shorter drives to the beach. Last month researchers reported the startling news that Antarctic glaciers have been melting at an accelerating pace over the past four decades, meaning that sea levels are poised to rise more quickly than predicted.

Due mainly to an influx of warm ocean water, Antarctica is losing six times as much ice as it was four decades ago, an unprecedented pace in the era of modern measurements, according to a study published January 14 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“The most striking finding in that study is the assertion that East Antarctica, which contains by far the continent’s most ice — a vast sheet capable of nearly 170 feet of potential sea-level rise — is also experiencing serious melting,” The Washington Post’s Chris Mooney and Brady Dennis wrote.

“It has been known for some time that the West Antarctic and Antarctic Peninsula have been losing mass, but discovering that significant mass loss is also occurring in the East Antarctic is really important because there’s such a large volume of sea-level equivalent contained in those basins,” said Christine Dow, a glacier expert at the University of Waterloo in Canada.

In explaining his report on urban areas, Fitzpatrick cautioned that no city will perfectly match its climate twin, especially when it comes to rainfall. Many cities in the South simply do not have a good twin.

"We're definitely working with a simplification here, and we're ignoring a lot of the important variability and complexity in the climate system," Fitzpatrick told E&E News reporter Chelsea Harvey. "But I think it's a necessary simplification…”

"Within the lifetime of children living today, the climate of many regions is projected to change from the familiar to conditions unlike those experienced in the same place by their parents, grandparents, or perhaps any generation in millennia," said Fitzpatrick.

“For instance,” wrote The Atlantic’s Meyer, “the Philadelphia of the 2080s will resemble the historical climate of Memphis. By the time kids today near retirement age, Philadelphia’s average summer will be about 7 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than it is now. Winters in the City of Brotherly Love will be nearly 10 degrees more temperate... Meanwhile, Memphis’s climate will come to resemble that of modern-day College Station, Texas, by 2080.”

If these projections leave you cold, tell those who represent you in Washington to work harder to combat climate change. One way to do so is to tax the main culprit: carbon dioxide emissions.


Who are the best people to persuade Americans with doubts about climate change that it is, in fact, occurring? The answer may be the men and women who deliver weather reports on local TV stations.

“For many people, we are the only scientist seen on a consistent basis,” wrote Jeff Berardelli, who has spent 22 years as a broadcast meteorologist. “We are a trusted local source of information, with an influence that few, if any, others have.

“Meteorologists are sewn into the unique cultural fabric of our cities and towns. We understand our people. Our people understand us. It’s us and only us, with our background in science, our communication charisma and our trusted local voice that can bridge the gap between science and society.”

How to talk about climate was a hot topic last month in Phoenix at the American Meteorological Society’s (AMS) annual meeting, Bryan Bender reported in POLITICO Magazine. A main takeaway: Avoid the phrase “climate change,” which is loaded with partisan connotations. Stop talking about who or what is most responsible, and focus instead on what is happening and how unusual it is—and what it is costing communities.

The new language taking root, Bender wrote, is meant to instill a sense of urgency about what is happening in ways that everyday citizens can relate to—without directly blaming it on human activity: The spring blossoms keep coming earlier; seasonal allergies are worsening and lasting longer; extreme heat is upending the kids’ summer camp schedule; crops are drying up or washing away at alarming rates.

And wherever possible, climate specialists told Bender, they are trying to explain the more frequent and deadly weather events in purely historical terms: These storms, these droughts, these dramatic fluctuations in temperature have previously taken place—once a century, or even once a millennium. But they keep coming.

“Over and over, we hear some version of: ‘I’ve lived here all my life, and it’s never been like this,’” said Carl Parker of the Weather Channel in Atlanta. “So, I think many are becoming aware, even intuitively, that the weather is getting worse, and that’s where we can connect the dots.”

“As broadcast professionals,” Berardelli asserted, “we know the best communication is a conversation, a two-way street, in which we meet our viewers where they are. Be honest, level with your viewers and stay far from politics. When viewers have questions or objections but are genuinely open to our expertise, engage them. Be respectful and responsive.”

“We are still not getting enough people to talk about it in the ways that matter to human beings in their homes, in their communities, for their family,” said Bernadette Woods Placky, an Emmy award-winning meteorologist who directs the Climate Matters program at Climate Central. “So it is making those connections in ways that really matter to people. It’s a jobs story. It’s an agriculture story. Connect it to the farm bill; boom!”

The strategy is being increasingly employed in more conservative regions of the country, where climate doubt still runs deep—even if there are signs of cracks in the resistance thanks to the pummeling pattern of highly unusual and costly weather events.

The nonprofit Climate Central has been working to encourage broadcast meteorologists to supplement daily forecasts about things like the polar vortex with information about climate change. Some 600 broadcast meteorologists, out of an estimated 2,200 in the United States, are working with Climate Matters to create new ways to tell their viewers about climate change.

AMS conference organizers invited Robert Mark Simpson, a professor of geography at the University of Tennessee at Martin, to talk about his three-year effort to educate farmers about climate change in western Tennessee and eastern Kentucky, where at some dinner tables the term remains a political curse word.

It’s a tall order. So he is also trying another tack to reach the political and religious conservatives whose families have been farming for generations: warning that the family business might be in jeopardy—sooner than they might think. “Will they be able to farm here 30 to 40 years from now?”

Another line of argument Simpson has found successful is an appeal to conservatives’ personal connection to nature. “Many are hunters and fishermen. They are really tied to the environment,” Simpson said. He finds he can reach them by trying to tap into their belief that “we’ve been given stewardship” of the Earth.

As the recent polar vortex plowed into the Midwest and the East, broadcasters such as Rush Limbaugh told listeners that the planet must not be warming after all. Fortunately, many TV meteorologists were explaining why the polar vortex proved no such thing--and very possibly was caused by climate change.

“As the consequences of the climate challenge mount,” Berardelli observed, “we find ourselves presented with this remarkable opportunity, a chance to use our unique skill set of science, communication and trust to be an integral ingredient in the solution to this greatest of human obstacles. We are a credible scientific source that can clear a path through confusion and help our viewers emerge at the clarity of scientific truth.”


Making a living as a fisherman has always been a challenge. With the climate changing, it is rapidly becoming even more challenging.

Fisherman Darius Kasprzak of Kodiak, Alaska, has been fishing commercially since 1983. “I have gone from averaging 100,000 pounds of cod every year at 40 cents a pound, and this year I caught two cod,” he told Robert Lee Hotz of The Wall Street Journal. From his small boat he now catches rockfish, a whitefish that can fetch 6 cents to $1.25 a pound, depending on the variety. “It’s been five years since my last good cod season, and I had to travel 400 miles to get that.”

Hotz’s extensive reporting from Alaska and the East Coast led to a front-page story with the header “The Price of Climate.” Climate’s impact on the global commercial fishing industry has been significant already and is widely expected to increase.

“We are definitely seeing changes in what’s happening out on the ocean,” said Doug L. Christensen, president of Arctic Storm Management Group in Seattle, a company that harvests about 90,000 tons of fish yearly from the Bering Sea. In pursuit of pollock this year, his ships have been traveling 60 or 70 hours out of Dutch Harbor, he told Hotz, instead of 20 hours or so as in years past, adding an extra 5,000 gallons or so of fuel to complete each voyage.

Scientists at the University of British Columbia concluded in 2016 that climate change will cost the global fishing industry $10 billion per year within a few decades. Published in the journal Scientific Reports, the study found that changes in ocean temperature, salinity, oxygen and sea ice levels, and other conditions will significantly drive down the number of various marine creatures in the coming years. In addition to pushing species into new environs, the team said, rising temperatures may also cause many of the fish we rely on to become smaller--further driving down the maximum catch potential.

The recent Fourth National Climate Assessment by 13 federal agencies outlined the economic impacts the nation may experience as a result of unruly weather, changing climate and sea level rise. The report foresees "declines of species that support some of the most valuable and iconic fisheries in the Northeast, including Atlantic cod, Atlantic sea scallops, and American lobster."

Though most people chasing fish are likely to see their income decline, the migration of species in response to rising water temperatures will create some winners, at least for certain periods. The U.S. catch of Illex squid, usually used in calamari, tripled between 2016 and 2017, and fishermen off the coast of Rhode Island are benefitting. Richard Fuka, who builds boats and repairs commercial fishing vessels in Point Judith, says he has seen business thrive as a result. “The huge winner in warming waters,” he told Hotz, “is the squid fisherman of Rhode Island.”

Jimmy Ruhle is catching some of those squid. The bad news is that he has to travel from Virginia to do so. As he explained to Hotz, over the last 25 years, he has seen summer flounder and black sea bass shift their range 600 to 700 miles or so north from where he once caught them as a young man, in response to warming water temperatures and shifts in the Gulf Stream. To stay profitable, Ruhle has shifted northward too, and that means higher fuel costs. As a result, Mr. Ruhle has branched out into harvesting squid off the coast of Rhode Island, which he can unload locally.

“We had to travel 1,300 miles in 11 days to get the catch we were allocated,” he said. “All of the fish we caught this year could easily have been taken off Virginia 25 years ago. It has been that significant a shift in those species.”

Concerned about a decline in the Dungeness crab fishery offshore from California and Oregon, the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations went to court in November. The PCFFA is suing 30 companies, mainly oil producers, charging that the fossil fuel industry must be held accountable for recent warming-related damages to the famed $445 million crab fishery.

Since 2014, the northeast Pacific Ocean has experienced several dramatic marine heatwaves, NPR’s Alastair Bland reported. The higher temperatures have caused blooms of toxic algae that, by producing the neurotoxin domoic acid, can make Dungeness crab and other shellfish unsafe to eat. In the fall of 2015, state officials delayed the opening of crab season by several months, until testing finally showed that domoic acid levels had dipped back to safe levels. Several similar closures have occurred since.

"We're out fishing all the time, and it's obvious the oceans are getting warmer," said John Beardon, who fishes for Dungeness crab out of Crescent City, California, and spoke with David Hasemyer of InsideClimate News. "That's bad for crabs and other fish, and it's bad for those of us who make a living on the water. The last three years have been really hard. Our community came together and held a fish fry to help our crew members. But fish fries and disaster relief are no solution to these closures we're now seeing year after year after year."

Of course, the fishing industry is not alone; virtually every line of business will be affected by climate change. It’s time for Congress to put an honest price on carbon so that we can minimize the damage to our economy.


How much deterioration in human health are Americans willing to accept before telling our elected leaders to do something about climate change?

There’s no dispute about the fact that wildfires, heat waves, floods, hurricanes are becoming more frequent and more intense and that they take a toll on our health. A major report published November 28 in the public-health journal The Lancet provides predictions of how climate change is degrading human health, and how it will alter health-care systems in the future, as The Atlantic’s Vann R. Newkirk II put it.

A supplement to the report examined the likely impacts on Americans and broke them down into three categories, Newkirk wrote:  1) The heat itself and the increased intensity and duration of heat waves will make people sick, exacerbate existing conditions, and reduce the productivity of workers; 2) The rising severity and frequency of extreme weather events will elevate threats to health, as well as threats to health systems; 3) Warmer seasons and warmer water mean the range for illnesses carried by ticks and mosquitoes will expand, putting more Americans in the crosshairs of diseases such as vibrio, Lyme disease, and West Nile.

“One of the central challenges” is to convince people that “climate change is here today and is impacting our health today,” said Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, which sponsored the U.S.-focused analysis.

The report points to evidence already indicating links between hotter temperatures and mental-health and cognitive issues; increases in kidney diseases, preterm births, and respiratory diseases; heat exhaustion; and the advance of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

It’s worth remembering that every health impact carries a price tag, and we need to crank that figure into any cost-benefit analysis of actions we might take to counter climate change. The Lancet study, which was sponsored by 27 academic institutions, a collection of intergovernmental agencies, and the UN, found that, in 2017, 153 billion hours of labor were lost worldwide because of heat. That’s 64 billion more lost labor hours than in 2000--a 41 percent increase in just 17 years. This is one statistic you can cite if someone tells you it would be too expensive to tax carbon or take other action to fight climate change.

The risk of debilitating, often deadly infectious diseases is moving to new places. That’s because even small changes in temperature and rainfall can have a significant effect on where diseases that are spread by bugs and water can take hold. Habitats for dengue-spreading mosquitoes have expanded significantly, the Lancet study concluded.

The Lancet’s report cites a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that shows that disease cases in the U.S. from mosquitoes, ticks, and fleas more than tripled from just under 30,000 to almost 100,000 a year from 2004 to 2016.

Do you like to eat? If so, you may be concerned by the finding that crop yields are diminishing in 30 countries, reversing a longtime trend of rising agricultural productivity.

We simply should not ignore these disturbing facts. We need to put them to work to persuade lawmakers that the time has come to price carbon.