2013-07-19

The Climate Change Real Estate Boom Is Coming

Before he passed away, British futurist James Martin predicted a massive real estate boom in fortified "Climate Change Cities," where the global elite go to escape the ravages of rising sea levels and unstable weather patterns.

Fabulously wealthy British futurist James Martin spoke about climate change at New York’s Lincoln Center and how it will change global population patterns in one of his last public appearances before passing away on June 30 at 79 years of age. Martin, who donated more than $150 million to Oxford University and lived on his own private Bermudan island, believed one of the biggest land booms in history is on its way—and it will happen in less than 100 years.

At the June 15 Global Future 2045 conference, Martin explained that events like Superstorm Sandy and Hurricane Katrina will hit major American cities harder and more frequently because of climate change. Scientists and politicians have even come to the conclusion that whole countries such as Mauritius and Tuvalu will need to evacuate due to rising sea levels. But while coastlines in much of the world may suffer, climate change will be a positive development in some areas. Specifically, Canada; northern Europe; Russia; Alaska; Patagonia, Argentina; and southern Africa may all experience real estate booms. These booms, he claimed, will be in "Climate Change Cities" with military fortifications catering to an increasingly displaced global elite.


Climate Change Migration

The idea of climate change-triggered mass migration has been around for a long time. Martin’s idea of climate-change cities centers around migration by the upper and upper middle class, but politicians, charities, and bureaucrats worldwide have quietly (and not so quietly) been gearing up for a torrent of refugees fleeing newly inhabitable lands.

This past June, Pacific Ocean island nations hosted a summit on climate change migration where best practices to evacuate thousands upon thousands of people were discussed. For the guests assembled on the island of Rarotonga, the big question was what happens when sea levels rise to a point where island populations simply can’t support themselves. Instead of being discussed as a science fiction hypothetical, the question was treated with steely reality.

What’s At Risk For Cities

As any player of Civilization knows, most major cities anchor trade routes. This means cities are more often than not built seaside or on a riverbank, which puts them at severe risk from rising sea levels. In the United States alone, New York, New Orleans, Chicago, Miami, Boston, San Francisco, Seattle and many other cities face the risk of whole neighborhoods becoming uninhabitable because of climate change. Here in Co.Exist’s hometown of New York City, the Rockaways and large portions of Staten Island and New Jersey are asking themselves just how extensively to rebuild in the wake of Sandy.

Continuing with the New York example, Mayor Michael Bloomberg recently proposed a $20 billion climate change plan for the city. The plan is designed to mitigate damage from another Sandy-sized storm and would drastically change everyday life for New Yorkers, with sharply increased taxes and large construction projects in most seaside neighborhoods. But what happens at that unspecified future date when the climate change mitigation plans fail?

Building Climate-Change Cities

Martin’s prediction for the building of climate change cities was pessimistic and stakes itself on growing global instability. These new cities, which would cater to the "well-heeled," would be built in places where rising sea levels would actually improve local climates. Rising temperatures and an increase in arable land as a result of climate change is expected to occur in Russia, Canada, Scandinavia, Chile, Argentina, southern Africa, the Great Lakes region of the United States, and far northern and southern zones worldwide. As existing cities and rural regions slowly become uninhabitable due to increasingly inhospitable weather, rising food prices, and skyrocketing utility prices causing a decline in air conditioning, more mass migration is expected.

Alongside conventional worries of security, political autonomy, and economy, the proposed climate change cities would also make use of newer technologies. Self-driving cars, for example, will transform living patterns due to convoy features that sharply reduce both commute times and greenhouse gas consumption. Then there are increasingly energy-efficient methods of producing electricity and growing food—but it’s still unclear if these cities, if they ever come to pass, would be more like Singapore or more of a giant suburban gated community.

Will It Happen?

It’s certainly possible. There is little modern historic precedent for the worst case climate change scenario, where major global cities such as New York and London lose their commercial centers and many residential neighborhoods to rising sea levels. If that indeed comes to pass, frenzied community-building in previously underinhabited regions may occur. But there’s also a more optimistic scenario, where major cities engage in shock construction to mitigate the worst parts of climate change. The two prospects aren’t mutually exclusive. Only the future will tell us what happens.

[Bottom Image: Neal Ungerleider/Instagram]

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4 Comments

  • Harry Taft

    Pointing at Sandy and Katrina, (why not point at Andrew, a real monster of a storm ?) is anecdotal and lacks the reliability of long-range data collecting. The problem for climate types is that the long-range data does not support the narrative.  Anticipating significant ocean rise requires one to accept the "ice is melting at a rate across the planet that exceeds the rate at which new ice is accumulating" thesis. Where, again, is the data ?

    People we call Futurists are often valuable as they describe the results of subtle changes that to the rest of us remain incoherent, and therefore, invisible. In this case, it is kind that he has passed away.

    To reliably predict, you have to have a correct understanding of all the contributing factors.

  • Seth in DC

    "Before he passed away, British futurist James Martin predicted a massive real estate boom..."

    It's good he made his prediction before he passed away.

  • William Prindle

    Migration and adaptation have been hallmarks of Homo Sapiens for a long, long time. What was different in the first few thousand generations was that we didn't carry much with us, and there was a certain equality among the bands and tribes that initially formed. There was also a vast carrying capacity on the planet for our frail bands to bump around in. Today, we have built vast infrastructures, not just brick and mortar, but land ownership laws and nation states, that make picking up and moving to adapt to climate change....a bit more complicated. And the carrying capacity is much less vast than it was. Finally, the pace of climate change was never this rapid, with the exception of a few major events such as the breakout of North American fresh water into the Atlantic near the end of the last Ice Age. So the optimists who say "we've always adapted and we will this time" are delusional. Unless we take action soon to limit the progression of climate change, we are doomed to a pretty violent and miserable century. I fear for what my grandchildren, if they survive, may inherit at century's end. A great awakening is beginning to happen spontaneously among many people, and if it prevails we may work our way out of this; but powerful reactionary forces are also arising. It's like the young man who goes to the tribal elder for advice: "Grandfather, I keep having this terrible dream, where two dogs are fighting in my heart. One feels like love, and the other fear. Grandfather, can you tell me which one will win?" The old man looks at the young man for a long moment, then finally says: "The one you feed."

  • Ghung

    From above: "These new cities, which would cater to the “well-heeled,...”

    As climate change proceeds, along with the depletion of resources and overall biospherical degradation, these folks may find themselves not so "well heeled". The 'little people' will likely make wealth preservation difficult, if not impossible. Plenty of historical examples for that. As it is, most of this wealth exists in the form of too many claims on too few assets. Our credit/debt based economies will likely go POOF long before sea level rise presents its full impact. Forward looking folks with means will have already built their lifeboats, IMO, or remain comfortably numb in their hubris.