Paul Hampton

Got your air tanks? Your fins? Your wetsuit? Good, let’s go tour your new home.

The Scranton Times-Tribune

So, I’m reading this report that warns what will happen to coastal homes if the sea level keeps rising and the coasts continue to erode. The worst-case scenario has almost 2 million homes underwater by 2100.

That’s optimistic, I told myself, if they believe the Earth will last until 2100. If it does, it will be despite our best efforts.

We have witnessed a couple of weeks of, oh, I don’t know, odd weather. A little over a week after Hurricane Harvey inundated Houston with an unprecedented amount of rain, Hurricane Irma flattened islands, caused the sea to disappear in spots, then weakened considerably and hit the United States as a much less-fearsome hurricane than we feared. Still, the combined storms will open a gaping hole in the federal budget.

For the record, I have been informed that the middle of a catastrophic storm is no time to talk about climate change.


What should we talk about? The wisdom of building major refineries in hurricane-prone areas?

Or we could discuss the sustainability of the National Flood Insurance Program, a discussion that seems to have been kicked down the road another few months.

No? OK, let’s talk about climate change.

How certain are climate change deniers that they have it right? Not very. At least not in the case of coastal developers in other states where they have blocked or have tried to block sea-level predictions from guiding public policy.

This is not as big a deal in South Mississippi, where most of the buildings are built far from the water’s edge. Most, in fact, are across U.S. 90 from the beach in Harrison County.

So are those other states’ denial of sea level rise rooted in science? Nope.

No, they are using another formula. I don’t have much of a math background but translated into English, it’s a formula that reads something like, “The closer we build to the water, the more money we make.”

So what if MY McManstrocity blocks anyone else’s view. That’s part of the allure of beachfront property, there is a limited amount of it. You know, supply and demand.

Except when Mother Nature comes along and decides she’s had enough of human shenanigans for one hurricane season and flattens the beachfront property.

Jeez, you might think, that’s tough luck for some insurance company.

Not really. Insurance companies long ago bailed on beachfront properties as if they were teen drivers with a stack of moving violations. No one is dumb enough to bet on the sustainability of property that is all but certain to be washed away. No one, that is, but the federal government.

Now there are some who’ll argue that some of those who are covered by NFIP are paying what would be market rates if insurers would only insure them. Sure. That’s why the NFIP is billions in the hole and sinking.

So we can keep denying the seas are rising, the storms are more intense, the climate is fundamentally changing. Or, if we insist on ignoring the obvious, we could at least make a wholehearted effort to mitigate the effects of these things that aren’t happening on our beachfront living.

Or, we could drown in debt, blaming the poor or the lazy or the immigrants as the water rises past our noses.

Paul Hampton: 228-284-7296, @JPaulHampton