2016-12-29 / From The Garden

Sea Rise and Your Bottom Line

By James Merolla

David W. Stookey worries how climate change will affect your budget, your lifestyle, and even your dreams.

Stookey, a retired technology CEO, has just published his first book through the Savvy Families Institute, the Newport company he runs. As he explains, “Climate- Proof Your Personal Finances” is less about sea level rise, and “more about your taxes, fees and insurance costs; less about drought, and more about rising prices, threats to your job, and the endangered value of your home.” NTW: What prompted you to write “Climate-Proof”? Stookey: The book describes actions we can take to safeguard our families and communities against the effects of climate change. I really want to get readers thinking – not so much about the causes of warming or the dangers to polar bears and coral reefs – but about how we can protect against the mostly-local threats to our wallets and our life plans. NTW: Assuming those effects are taking place slowly each year, how can your book help most? Stookey: Many effects of warming do seem gradual. Plant hardiness zones are moving north 10 miles a year; sea-level is rising several inches a decade; and air conditioning hours are slowly growing. But there are potential tipping points, and change could come suddenly.

One example close to home: Coastal properties could drop in value overnight if another big storm forcefully demonstrates how vulnerable this real estate market is.

Newport has 585 businesses and a total of 1,988 structures in the city’s current flood danger area. Their owners are threatened by coastal flooding, more intense future storms, and by the steady rise of sea level. But we’re all threatened, since the cost of protecting these neighborhoods will be huge. NTW: What are three things that readers should glean from your book? Stookey: First, while we should do what we can to slow climate change, we must understand that past emissions have already baked in several degrees of warming, with serious unavoidable consequences. It’s happening!

Second, while most of us won’t actually face physical threats from climate change, like flooding, drought and spreading health problems, we’ll experience them as financial threats.

And third, the sooner we

start thinking and planning the better. Where will we and our city find the money to create protections? Many of these will be cheaper and more effective if taken earlier than later.

NTW: Will the needed alterations

in our budgets and lifestyles be straightforward? Stookey: Vulnerability varies widely depending on our location, financial resilience, and jobs. Any given family is likely to need only a fraction of the 109 protective actions or nine attitude shifts I chronicle in “Climate-Proof.” What’s needed could be the easy stuff like weatherizing a home or selling some municipal bonds, or it could be more complex, like getting qualified for a safer job or maybe even picking up stakes and moving to a more climate proof hometown. NTW: What is Savvy Families? Stookey: At SavvyFamilies.org, we compile free scorecards on every town in America, showing data that measure the threats and opportunities peculiar to each location.

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