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The Green Life: Global Warming Fries Housing Values

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December 05, 2012

Global Warming Fries Housing Values

Burned houseThe increased severity of wildfires, heat waves, hurricanes, and floods are all negative consequences of climate change. But at the same time, they can seem distant and vague, occurring "somewhere" to "someone" who isn't you, until suddenly it is. However, there is a way that the increased cost of natural disasters inflicts a cost on everyone, and that is through insurance.

Housing insurance premiums have been going up as the climate does, and a new study by Movoto Real Estate found that for every .25 degrees Fahrenheit (.14 degrees Celsius) that the temperature climbs, insurance premium rates rise in turn by 1 percent. That leaves less money to buy the house, and causes housing values to drop. So, even with an extremely mild .25°F heating, the entire country loses $18.7 billion worth of real estate, about $250 per house. But the IPCC estimates for future climate change are much greater than that. Even in their lowest-emission scenario, temperatures may rise at least 1.9°F (1.1°C). That's over 130 billion dollars lost in housing values alone, not counting the cost of damage to public works and agriculture that are bound to ride along with rising temperatures.

These costs are averages, and not every state and city and house will feel the heat to the same degree. It depends both on how much they heat and on how sensitive they are to natural disasters. A few states even pull ahead, with higher real estate values with greater heat. However, the overall trend is clear, and even most of the lucky states (such as California and Florida) have many coastal communities that would suffer greatly from sea-level rise.

So if the plight of the polar bears and the glaciers doesn't move you to take a stand against climate change, then please, at least think of the houses.

Rachael Monosson is an editorial intern for Sierra and a recent graduate of Stanford University, where she studied Earth Systems. She lives in San Mateo.

-Image by iStockphoto/eugenesergeev

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