It’s not what climate change will do to your house.
It’s what it will do to your family economy.
For millions of Americans, the biggest factor in climate-proofing our lives will be our choice of hometown.
It is easy for us to see places suffering from the effects of warming. Aerial shots show the thousands of homes burned in California. Others show even more that were badly damaged in New Jersey by the hurricane. But those photos show only physical damage. Many of us would look at them and say, “Not a problem for me. I live nearby, but I’m out of the forest. Or 200 feet above the shoreline.”
Wrong. We might be out of physical danger, but so long as we live in the same tax district, job market, local economy, or real estate market as our physically damaged neighbors, our personal finances are in danger from those events.
Here’s one scenario.
A hurricane destroys a nearby family’s home. Yes, their pain and loss are great, but at least they can move on. They can take the insurance money and rebuild their lives in a more climate-proof hometown. In the meantime, we lucky neighbors who escaped with no damage get to stay and help cope with the secondary effects. Through our local and state taxes, we pay for the clean-up, the municipal engineering studies, and the new erosion control and stormwater overflow structures. We pay for the relocation of shoreside infrastructure, the construction of dykes, and all manner of other efforts to protect residents and businesses from the next disaster.
We endure the squeeze on municipal services—education, police and fire, parks and recreation, trash collection, street maintenance. It comes because the town’s tax base shrinks and its revenues must be spent on disaster cleanup and new protections for parts of our town. Furthermore, we become spectators or participants in the bickering and politicking among residents of the town, county and state over what should be spent, who should benefit, and who should pay.
Before long we get a postcard from the family whose home was destroyed. Forced to become mobile, they now live in one of the many U.S. towns where their personal finances aren’t threatened by potential costs from flood, storm, fire, or drought.
Which towns are those? Our town-by-town Scorecards can tell you.
Excerpted from Climate-Proof Your Personal Finances