Rising sea levels threaten billions in real estate

by Ryan Smith

Rising sea levels are a growing threat to coastal real estate, according to a report in the Toronto Star.

Nationwide, as many as 28,000 homes could be underwater by 2050 – either temporarily, due to storm surges, or permanently, thanks to sea-level rise, the Star reported. And a recent report from Climate Central predicted that 737,000 Canadians would be affected by sea-level rise if average global temperatures rise by 2 degrees.

It’s not just the Maritimes that are at risk, the Star reported. Vancouver’s climate adaption strategy has estimated that $25 billion worth of real estate is threatened by sea-level rise this century – and that’s not even counting city infrastructure. Making improvements to dikes along the British Columbia coast could run up to $10 billion.

So how is Canada preparing for the risk, and who’s going to pay for it?

“It should be up to Canadians to have this debate,” Jason Thistlethwaite, a sustainable development professor at the University of Waterloo, told the Star.

Canadian property investors are starting to ask questions, however. Adam Fenech, director of the Climate Research Lab at the University of PEI, told the Star that although real estate agents don’t like to talk about sea-level rise, many prospective buyers on Prince Edward Island are starting to ask about it themselves.

And if they don’t get a straight answer from their agent, they’re likely to seek out Fenech, who developed a system called Coastal Impacts Visualization Environment, which could simulate how erosion and sea-level rise will affect the area in the future.

“I’ve had a lot of people come to my climate research lab insisting, sitting at the door, refusing to go away until I showed them,” he told the Star. “Usually, they’re about to sign some papers and want to know if a purchase is a good one to make.”

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