“Better Tools for Better Climate Adaptation Decision-Making”
by Albert J. Slap, President, Coastal Risk Consulting, LLC, Fort Lauderdale, FL
(Written for “Insurance Thought Leadership” Journal – March/April 2016)
If you could see into the future and, you could know what will happen to your house, your neighborhood, the grocery store parking lot, and, the route you travel to work, it would be extremely valuable, wouldn’t it? Actually, in many parts of the world, you can. In our coastal areas, we are currently experiencing “King” or astronomical high tides. King Tides are the highest high tides of the year, occurring when the sun and moon are in alignment and closer to the Earth. King Tides give us a preview of the future, because the highest tides of today will be the average water levels of the future as sea levels continue to rise due to climate change.
In some cities like Miami Beach, local governments are already spending millions of dollars to pump high-tide sea water off the streets. In other places, like Norfolk, VA, individuals are raising their homes and installing vents to stop rising tides from cracking their foundations. These are examples of climate change adaptations that are being taken, now, as a result of rising sea levels. Miami Beach and Norfolk know what they have to do, because they are experiencing climate impacts, today, not in some dystopic future. Also, it’s important to note that hurricanes, nor’easters, and tropical cyclones make landfall on top of local tidal/sea levels. In the case of Super Storm Sandy, it made landfall over a King Tide, thereby causing greater destruction, loss of life, and tens of billions in additional economic losses.
For the majority of governments, businesses, and billions of individuals living along coastlines around the world, they simply don’t have access to climate impact analyses at an appropriate level of granularity in order to make intelligent decisions on the allocation of limited adaption resources. They need online tools to better understand what a future world will look like in a changed climate.
This is why Coastal Risk Consulting, LLC, has developed an online flood score for individual properties using high-resolution elevation data, local tidal gauges, US Army Corps of Engineers models and other publicly-available data (www.coastalriskrapidassessment.com). The Harvard Business Review recently commented on Coastal Risk’s technology in its January 2016 issue: "What will this adaptation look like? The answer varies by location. Companies such as Coastal Risk Consulting are developing flood risk statistical models at the parcel level.
Competition in forming accurate forecasts will incentivize such firms to design high-quality, useful forecasts. Real estate investors will have strong incentives to respond to these forecasts." https://hbr.org/2016/01/rising-sea-levels-wont-doom-u-s-coastal-cities.
Coastal Risk’s customer base includes: (1) real estate developers wanting to make their properties more climate ready and storm safe; (2) local governments that need to raise sea walls; and, (3) health care facilities with already flooding parking lots. The question for most of these stakeholders is often the same: “how high and how long will it last?” Other Coastal Risk customers help homeowners reduce their NFIP insurance premiums with map amendments or, if the flood maps are correct, these consultants will help homeowners explore their adaptation options, such as regrading or even raising their homes out of the flood zone.
Coastal Risk’s mission is to help a billion coastal residents around the world get climate ready and storm safe. It plans to do this by supplying online, geospatial data and analysis tools for better climate adaptation decision-making. www.coastalriskconsulting.com