This week Lee discusses what the future of electrical power will look like.
An Investment Expert Says Florida Homeowners Should Sell Property Now As Climate Impacts Worsen
By Jessica Weiss • May 24, 2019
An expert on the impact of climate change on financial markets has advice for anyone thinking of buying a home in Florida: don’t.
Spencer Glendon of the Woods Hole Research Center said Friday on the Florida Roundup that financial institutions are going to wreck Florida’s economy if they don’t confront the risk to coastal real estate and slow their lending. He warned that home buyers in the state should no longer be receiving 30-year mortgages.
“What maybe seemed like a long time horizon or something that’s far away actually isn’t far away,” Glendon said. “The longer we wait to start adjusting, the more painful it will be.”
Insurability is the main issue. Thirty-year mortgages come with the condition that a borrower have insurance, which is renewed annually. But insurers can choose to stop offering insurance at any time, or make prices prohibitively expensive, which would cause a homeowner to violate their debt. Eventually, lenders would be forced to stop lending, causing prices to plummet.
In Florida, where many parts of the state are increasingly under risk of flooding and infrastructure erosion, both insurance companies and reinsurance companies have begun to sound the alarm and suggest they will not be working in Florida markets in the coming years.
“Things that are a 1 in 20 year event, or a 5 percent risk, are essentially uninsurable in most parts of world. That’s too often for an insurance company to want to intervene and have to want to deal with claims,” he said. “In most of coastal Florida, that threshold has already been breached.”
Meanwhile, thousands of people continue to move to Florida each week, many of them within 50 miles of the coast — where risk is highest for disaster from rising waters. The state is currently home to some 21 million people.
Kevin McCarty, the chairman of the Florida Association for Insurance Reform and Florida’s former insurance commissioner, said on The Florida Roundup that banks aren’t likely to stop lending in Florida anytime soon — “unless something happens dramatically to shift the burden to [them] to actually have to pay.”
He compared the threat of sea-level rise in Florida to earthquakes in California.
“It’s interesting because there’s a huge number of homes in California that are provided mortgages that don’t have earthquake coverage … Millions and millions worth of mortgage property on fault lines that don’t have simple protection,” he said. “We know earthquakes are going to happen in California and when it happens it will be devastating. Yet the mortgage industry continues to provide.”
McCarty agreed that Florida has failed to sufficiently address sea-level rise and climate change.
“There have been some efforts made at the local level, particularly in southeast Florida,” he said. “But the state has not made a comprehensive effort to address that. We need to make communities more resilient and therefore more insurable.”
Glendon recommended a more dramatic approach, and encouraged people to start preparing now for the future, such as by paying down mortgages and/or selling.
He called for climate change and adaptation to be taken up on the local and state level and by Congress.
“If we start acknowledging some of the misplaced capital now and misplaced expectations now, the adjustment will be easier,” he said.
In this podcast Lee discusses our electrical grid and what needs to be addressed.
Microgrids, big and small, are able to operate separately from the regional electrical grid during power outages. Russ Zimmer
I have the privilege of serving on CNA’s Military Advisory Board — more than 30 retired three- and four-star generals and admirals from the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard who study pressing issues of the day to assess the impact of those issues on America’s national security. Energy is one of our top concerns.
Reliable electricity underpins every facet of American lives. Without it, our homes, our businesses and our national security engine would grind to a halt — especially when so much of this power is becoming “smart” and integrated. Yet the nation’s electrical generation and distribution infrastructure, commonly referred to as “the grid,” is showing its age and vulnerability — no wonder, since the grid was conceived more than a hundred years ago.
Vice Admiral Lee F. Gunn, USN (Ret.)
Vice Admiral Lee F. Gunn, USN (Ret.) (Photo: Provided by Lee Gunn)
We’ve studied the risks to our grid and worked hard to identify policies that can mitigate them. Our key findings are found in our reports “National Security and Assured U.S. Electrical Power” and “Advanced Energy and U.S. National Security,” both available for free at http://www.cna.org/MAB/reports.
I recently had the opportunity to meet with a number of Nevada’s legislators and to present our key findings to the Assembly’s Growth and Infrastructure Committee. This was my fourth visit to Nevada over the last three years to speak with state agencies, legislators and other elected officials concerned with these issues. I’m pleased that Nevada has demonstrated leadership in enacting policies that diversify energy supply, expand the distributed generation of electricity and provide incentives for energy storage.
There’s more that needs to be done. Fortunately, your 2019 Legislature is also discussing forward-thinking actions on clean energy such as a stronger renewable energy portfolio standard and the electrification of transportation. These and other policies will increase Nevada’s leadership in clean, advanced energy in a way that benefits Nevadans and demonstrates a model for other states. Such policies enhance our national security.
More: Russians are hacking our electric grid. Where’s the urgency on this escalating threat?
More: All the selfish reasons we need an anti-oil foreign policy. It’s not just about climate.
We find ourselves at a unique point in history. On one hand, we have an aging grid with increasing vulnerabilities and determined adversaries. On the other hand, we have advancing technologies and proven, innovative sources that are much more capable of producing electrical power closer to the consumer. We have the technology to build a grid that is more resilient and much less of a strategic target for adversaries, and at the same time will be more flexible and able to accept future technological advances in energy production. Because our adversaries are determined and the threats to our electrical grid and national security are real and substantial, we believe that the time to fix the issues with our grid is now.
Nevada has already shown that it’s willing to be at the forefront of innovation and problem-solving. I urge Nevada’s policymakers to seize this challenge and opportunity. In 1864, Nevada became the “Battle Born” state with the development of its silver resources helping preserve our nation and advance freedom. Leadership in the 2019 legislative session that accelerates the development of Nevada’s clean energy resources has the potential to significantly improve our national system of generating, storing and delivering electrical energy while advancing the security of the United States and demonstrating American leadership to the world.
Last week, Lee as a member of the Center for Naval Analysis Military Advisory Board was invited to speak to the National Security Forum of Northern Nevada. He also briefed the Nevada Legislature’s Senate Committee on Growth and Infrastructure on how the development of advance energy infrastructure and national security are connected. Below is an interview with Nevada Capitol News
Lee with Nevada Assemblywoman Danielle Monroe, Assemblywoman Danielle Monroe-Moreno, Assistant Majority Floor Leader, and Chairwoman of the Assembly Growth and Infrastructure Committee to whom Lee presented.
With all the news stories, the differing perspectives, and new scientific reports, its easy to get confused and frustrated. This week Lee starts a series of discussions and interviews that will help you make sense out what climate change is, why it matters, and what we can do.
Despite what you hear, we still need nuclear power. Renewables while making a difference can’t keep pace with demand. This week I explain where nuclear power is headed and why we need to get onboard.
Coastal flooding for Virginia is a growing problem. To address this issue Government Northam appointed Retired Rear Admiral Ann Phillips. In the next 12 minutes, she explains the job’s challenges and opportunities.
Climate change and US interests in the Arctic
By Lee Gunn and Joe Bryan
In testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee in April, Navy Secretary Richard Spencer announced that a rewrite of the Navy’s Arctic strategy was underway. Asked by a reporter after the hearing what prompted the new strategy just four years after the Navy issued its U.S. Navy Arctic Roadmap 2014-2030, Spencer stated “the damn thing melted.”
Secretary Spencer was right. The Arctic is melting. Just this month, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) issued its annual Arctic report card for 2018. NOAA’s headline “Effects of persistent Arctic warming continue to mount” was an understatement. Among the agency’s findings, air temperatures in the Arctic are warming at twice the rate of the rest of the world and sea ice “remained younger, thinner, and covered less area than in the past.” The implications of these changes for U.S. national interests cannot be ignored. Consider recent developments.
In late August, a container ship operated by the global shipping behemoth Maersk, left Vladivostok bound for St. Petersburg though the Northern Sea Route. While that was a first such transit for a commercial container ship, it surely won’t be the last. Meanwhile, the operating environment in the Arctic, even for experienced shipping firms, is incredibly difficult: the weather is poor; the conditions unpredictable; and much work remains in the way of charting the sea floor and identifying maritime hazards. Nevertheless, given warming trends, opportunities for transit and exploitation of natural resources in the Arctic will continue to grow.
Those potential opportunities are already drawing a crowd as allies and adversaries alike position themselves to benefit from the melting ice. Russia’s build up in the high north is ongoing. As to China, a recent report by CNA’s Mark Rosen and Cara Thuringer estimates that Chinese firms have already invested about $90 billion dollars in Arctic and Arctic-related infrastructure. These developments increase the risk of international disputes or an accident that could take generations to recover from.
In October, the U.S. joined eight other countries, including Russia and China, and the European Union in signing the Agreement to Prevent Unregulated High Seas Fisheries in the Central Arctic Ocean. The agreement precludes commercial fishing in the area until there is sufficient scientific data to determine how such activities should be managed. It also commits signatories to establishing a Joint Program of Scientific Research and Monitoring to inform when and how commercial fishing activity ought to be permitted. Forging international consensus to preclude commercial activity — prior to such activity even being initiated in any significant way — was an historic achievement. While agreements like this are important for protecting the Arctic ecosystem, they are also critical to reducing the risk of future conflict.
Mitigating the worst impacts of climate change ultimately depends on significant reductions in global carbon emissions.
The United States should rejoin the international community and recommit to aggressive cuts in CO2.
However, we cannot ignore the implications of warming that is already happening. Forging consensus with the international community is essential to dealing with these implications, avoiding future conflicts, and keeping the Arctic a cooperative part of the planet.
Lee Gunn is a retired U.S. Navy Vice Admiral
Joe Bryan is a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Global Energy Center and a former Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Energy.