Report questions how seriously policymakers and officials have taken the threat from climate change. Advocate suggests that decision was made to stay put and ‘live with the risk’
Tom Johnson reports for
Superstorm Sandy wiped out thousands of homes at the Jersey Shore, but the increasing threat of devastating Coastal storms like it has hardly deterred building in areas most at risk of chronic flooding as sea levels rise from climate change, according to a new analysis.
In a pattern repeated nationwide in more than half of coastal states, the number of new homes and reconstructed houses built in flood-prone areas during the last decade outpaced those outside such risk zones. In New Jersey, more than three times as many homes were built in low-lying coastal zones than in safer areas.
The , jointly done by Climate Central, an independent news site run by scientists and journalists, and by Zillow, an online real estate data company, is likely to rekindle debate over land-use planning and development in coastal areas while raising questions over how seriously policymakers and local officials have taken the threats their communities face from climate change.
While many municipalities are increasingly developing plans to adapt to sea-level rise, the recent pattern of actual construction may be a better guide to which places are taking the risks most seriously.
In New Jersey, around 2,700 new homes, worth some $2.6 billion, were put up in the flood-risk zone after 2009. That’s more than double the number North Carolina built in risky coastal areas. Many of those were reconstructed after Sandy hammered the state in 2012.
Living with the risk
Ocean County led the way, with nearly 1,300 homes built or rebuilt in flood-prone areas after 2009. Cape May ranked second with 824 homes and Atlantic County (331) ranked sixth in the analysis.
The findings failed to surprise coastal advocates and planners.
“Overall, we only are half-paying attention to the lessons of Sandy,’’ said Tim Dillingham, executive director of the American Littoral Society, a coastal advocacy group. “For the most part, the decision was to stay put and live with the risk. We simply don’t want to face up to the actual degree of risk of building along the Shore.’
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