Hit by a hurricane? Turns out you might turn a profit
Plus, why Republicans might want to change their climate tune
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This past weekend, my wife and I visited her brother at his new condo in Naples, Fla. It was beautiful — overlooking the ocean and both slick and comfortable. It was very nice of him to invite us, especially since it has given him such angst.
Why? Well, he bought the place in the late spring of 2022 — and in September the warming-strengthened Hurricane Ian slammed into the coast just north of his place, meaning the city and its environs faced pretty much the full force of the storm, which had been predicted to make landfall much further up the coast.
Fortunately, his apartment, on a high floor, was not damaged. But the underground garage was inundated with mud and other debris from the Category 4 storm, as was the lobby, the gym and other facilities on the ground floor. And happily the condo is well insured, so owners have had to shell out very little to cover the costs of the damage.
But what about his investment? Surely no one is going to want to buy in the area having seen the devastation caused?
It turns out it might actually have been a better investment than if Ian had not paid a visit. At least, that’s according to a study published in the Journal of Environmental Economics and Management which found that home prices in the Sunshine State were 5% higher in the three-year period after a hurricane, with storm-hit housing markets attracting wealthier residents rather than scaring them away.
The researchers looked at hurricane data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), housing information on Zillow ZG 0.00 and tax assessments in Florida from 2000 to 2016. “Using mortgage application data, we find that incoming homeowners in this period have higher incomes, leading to an overall shift toward wealthier groups,” the authors wrote in their abstract. This is part of what the Natural Resources Defense Council calls climate gentrification, or when wealthier people move into an area after an extreme weather event disrupts or displaces the existing community.
In addition, the researchers believe that such price spikes may come from the decrease in housing supply caused by storm damage. Meanwhile, during the three years where housing prices are higher, wealthier buyers are the ones who can afford to purchase. And by the time prices stabilize again, higher-income homeowners occupy about a quarter of the homes in storm-affected communities, the study found.
Yanjun Liao, a fellow with the Resources for the Future, told E&E News that this might happen because wealthier property owners can better afford to go through a disaster. “It’s not like their financial wealth is going to be wiped out if they have to pay to rebuild their home,” she said.
And like my brother-in-law’s condo association, be able to afford better insurance.
Why Republicans should maybe change their climate tune
Is the GOP shooting itself a massive hole in the foot when it comes to climate change? It would seem so.
That’s because while research, such as a recent Yale University poll, reveals that 51% of Americans think their family will be harmed by global warming and an AP/NORC poll found that more than 70% of Americans believe that human-induced climate change is occurring, Republican politicians continue to act as if fossil fuels are just dandy.
First up, longtime Ohio governor Mike DeWine just signed off on a bill that legally defines natural gas as a source of “green energy.” “It’s green. It’s clean. And it’s abundant right under our feet, right here in Ohio,” GOP Rep. Troy Balderson wrote in an opinion piece in the Columbus Dispatch.
True, the fuel is cleaner-burning than coal or oil, but calling it green is delusory at best and a lie at worst.
Then there is similar stupidity from another Republican governor, Florida’s Ron DeSantis, who on Tuesday moved to prohibit fund managers acting on behalf of the state from taking environmental, social or governance (ESG) factors into consideration when making investments.
“Corporations across America continue to inject an ideological agenda through our economy rather than through the ballot box. Today’s actions reinforce that ESG considerations will not be tolerated here in Florida, and I look forward to extending these protections during this legislative session,” DeSantis said in a press release. The move follows similar policies introduced in several other states, including Louisiana, Missouri and West Virginia.
Fortunately for the asset managers, the states’ actions will make only a tiny dent on their bottom lines, with BlackRock BLK 0.00 CEO Larry Fink, speaking at the Davos confab on Tuesday, saying the world’s biggest financing company had only lost $4 billion in assets under management out of $230 billion placed by U.S. clients. And, he added, it would be foolish to dump ESG considerations when clients in other areas, particularly Europe, are demanding keen environmental awareness, Reuters reports.
Also increasingly demanding, as evidenced in the polling mentioned above, are American voters. And in 2024, with the effects of President Joe Biden’s climate-focused Inflation Reduction Act in full flower, Republicans may wish they had not swallowed the climate-denial poison.
Expect some Kevin McCarthy-type, neck-wrenching reverses and spin-doctoring next year.
Oh, Mr. Coffee, how you have forsaken me!
Every morning I get out of bed to dutifully make my wife and me a pot of joe. As I prep my trusty Mr. Coffee machine, I am very careful to use the exact amount of water and grounds to make two cups in an attempt to avert waste and be as guilt-free as possible. I also use organic filters.
Meanwhile, I have assiduously avoided falling for those ultra-convenient machines — Keurig is a big brand — that use single-serving pods to make a brew, believing the packaging to be wasteful and bad for the environment.
Well, it turns out that maybe my efforts may have been misdirected. Yup, in an analysis, researchers at University of Quebec at Chicoutimi in Canada found that brewing a cup of joe in my Mr. Coffee can generate roughly 1½ times more emissions than using a pod device.
“As a consumer, what we’re left with is the visible waste in front of us, and that often tends to be packages and plastics,” Shelie Miller, a professor of sustainable systems at the University of Michigan School for Environment and Sustainability not involved in the Canadian study, told The Washington Post. “But the impact of packaging, in general, is much, much smaller than the product itself.”
It largely comes down to efficiency. First, as is obvious from their tiny dimensions, pods use less coffee than the filter method. This means less environmental damage in growing the beans plus lower transportation costs and other factors. Drinking about a cup of the beverage brewed from a pod saves between 11 and 13 grams of coffee, the study shows.
Then there is the fact that filter-brewed coffee uses more electricity to heat the water and keep the coffee warm. “At the consumer level, avoiding wasting coffee and water is the most effective way to reduce the carbon footprint of coffee consumption,” said Luciano Rodrigues Viana, a doctoral student in environmental sciences at Chicoutimi who helped with the research.
So, what about those plastic-and-foil or aluminum pods? Well, manufacturing them and sending the used ones to a landfill generates about 33 grams of CO₂ equivalent, says the study. Producing 11 grams of Arabica coffee in, say, Brazil — the amount that can be saved by using a pod rather than brewing filtered coffee — emits close to double that amount: about 59 grams of CO₂ equivalent.
OK, I get it. And when (and if) the recycling sector becomes more efficient, we’re in for a win-win.
Er, maybe not. A follow-up NPR report trots out several other experts who poke holes in the Chicoutimi research, complaining that it is not peer-reviewed and does not take enough in account the energy used in producing the pods and disposing of them.
My Mr. Coffee lives on, it seems.
(A native of England, veteran journalist Matthew Diebel has worked at NBC News, Time, USA Today and News Corp., among other organizations. Having spent much of his childhood next to one of the world's fastest bodies of water, he is particularly interested in tidal energy.)