You can’t fool Mother Nature

Back when we lived in Chapel Hill NC, we made a few trips to the Outer Banks where my wife had an uncle who built fishing boats in Buxton NC. Back then, nobody was talking about sea levels rising because of global warming and yet it was obvious back then (early 1980s) that these sandy beaches were ephemeral and the buildings that overlooked them were at risk. The iconic Hatteras Lighthouse had to be moved away from the encroaching ocean back in 1999.

Now, the Boston Globe has a piece about the slow-moving spectacle of real estate price collapse on Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard as the totally predictable beach erosion claws away those scenic beaches between the water and the houses overlooking them. As the article notes, sea levels rose eight inches between 1965 and 2019:

“Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard have among the highest rates of beach erosion statewide . . . parts of the south coast of Nantucket have receded as much as 1,800 feet since the 1800s. Combined, the islands have lost more than 5 square miles of coastal areas from erosion since 1887.”

People are still willing to buy at fire sale prices, perhaps planning to use the savings to move the houses inland. But houses on these islands, like coastal houses in parts of California, Florida and Louisiana will be uninsurable.

Nature doesn’t care if you believe in climate change. And the people who make money by anticipating risk don’t care either.

Slow collapse of the Nantucket real estate market