Thursday, 15 May 2014

Global Warming and Coastlines

The Daily Mail has a number of scaremongering photographs of artists impressions of what a global warming sea level rise would do to various parts of the world. Miami's Ocean Drive, Venice Beach in LA. All with buildings underwater.

As Superman: the Movie explained (and one of those rare movies that can teach you something useful about economics) and Mark has shown with some data, people like living near the coast and pay more for being near the coast. Salisbury is a lot cheaper to buy a house than near the beach at Bournemouth.

And as Superman: The Movie explained (bullet 5. here), while you destroy a lot of land in the process (and in Lex Luthor's case, millions of lives) you also raise all the value of all the land that now become coastal, or near coastal. So, the people with Venice Beach apartments might find themselves losing their land values, the people in Inglewood will be a bit richer.

Assuming we had 12ft rises in water levels (which even with global warming predictions would take centuries), very little of any real value would be lost. We'd lose a few buildings, but that's a fraction of the value of beachfront property.

10 comments:

Mark Wadsworth said...

Agreed, but The Daily Mash turned this on its head after last year's floods and said that people were now paying a premium for homes as far as possible from the seaside.

In other words, markets would pre-empt Lex Luthor's strategy.

Sackerson said...

... until everyone is crowded onto Zanzibar, and property is a billion per square foot. So long as the money is OK, no harm done.

Kj said...

Fair point from Sackerson, land value is not really the point.

Bayard said...

Er, Sackerson, Zanzibar has an area that could (at one time) contain the entire world's population. That doesn't mean that it would be the last bit of dry land left if the sea level rose. The highest possible sea level rise, given all the land-borne ice melting wouldn't make much of a dent in the total area of land on the planet.

The Stigler said...

Kj,

"Fair point from Sackerson, land value is not really the point."

Actually, it is important. That's part of my point. You don't really lose anything much when you lose a couple of miles of coastline because all you really end up doing is putting some farmland to use for housing.

It's why the Thames Flood Barrier should be paid for exclusively by Londoners because they're the people with an interest in not getting flooded. If the Thames kept flooding and Westminster houses were knee deep in water on a regular basis, the land values in Westminster would fall. Bit of global warming and their land values would be worthless. And actually, everyone with land in say, Camden would see their land values rise.

Sackerson said...

I chose Zanzibar because of the SF book "Stand on Zanzibar" by (I think) John Brunner. Accepted that it would be underwater in this scenario.

Bayard said...

S, I thought you probably had. Good book that.

neil craig said...

If the Dutch could create their country using shovels and carts I doubt if maintaining ours is beyond the wit of man. Wit of Cameron/Miliband/Clegg yes.

neil craig said...

If the Dutch could create their country using shovels and carts I doubt if maintaining ours is beyond the wit of man. Wit of Cameron/Miliband/Clegg yes.

Mark Wadsworth said...

NC, exactly, mankind has been doing surprisingly ambitious drainage, irrigation, flood control projects for thousands of years using tools rather less sophisticated than even carts.