Climate Change Vulnerability Is Increasingly an Issue for Homebuyers  

It’s not surprising, given the extreme weather we’re witnessing, including here in Colorado, that 63% of people who moved during the pandemic say that climate is or will be an issue where they now live, according to a Redfin survey of 1,000 Americans who moved since March 2020. Many of the respondents said they researched climate issues before making their move.

In another survey by ValuePenguin, more than half of Americans fear they would not be able to recover financially from a climate-induced catastrophe. An earlier Redfin survey showed that Americans between the ages of 35 and 44 were most likely to say that “natural disasters, extreme temperatures and rising sea levels” all influenced or will influence their decisions on where to move. 

Here in Colorado we’ve been blessed to experience fewer and less dramatic impacts from climate change. But those impacts are knocking on our door. Consider last summer’s fire smoke, or this month’s hurricane-force winds, or our current drought.

Our water supply depends on snowpack, and rising winter temperatures result in more rain and less snow. Even though we’re east of the continental divide, we, like the Western Slope and the states west of us, are dependent on the dwindling Colorado River water, which is transported from the Western Slope to the Front Range through tunnels.

Because we experience fewer effects of climate change, I foresee increased migration from other parts of the country, including “tornado alley,” to Colorado as their current homes experience climate change’s increasing impact.

In researching this topic, I came across a Fall 2021 white paper from SitusAMC entitled “The Burgeoning Insurance Costs for Real Estate.” It assesses the impact of increased losses from catastrophes, mostly caused by climate change.

Although the focus of the white paper is on the ability of insurers to cover increased claims and the effect of those increased claims on residential and commercial insurance rates, it also made some interesting observations about the migration of people to and from states with high insurance claims and expected future risks from climate change.

So guest what? With the sole exception of California, people are moving to states where they will be more at risk rather than less. Texas, which accounted for 40% of all insurance claims in the first half of 2021, has had the highest influx of people from other states. Florida, despite its risks, was a close second.

In recent years I’ve seen many of my sellers relocating to Florida, and it’s hard for me to understand.

So there you have it — a Redfin study that says Americans are considering climate change risks before making their move, while another study shows that more people are moving into states and areas of high risk. Could both be true? I’m not sure what to believe now!

Event Tonight (Oct. 21) Is About Heat Pumps, “The Overlooked Climate Solution”

Michael Thomas is founder and head of research at Carbon Switch, a climate research company on a mission to decarbonize America’s homes. He will be speaking this evening at Jefferson Unitarian Church, 14350 W. 32nd Ave., Golden. All are welcome (masks required). The event begins at 7 p.m. but is being recorded if you can’t make it.

From Carbon Switch website

Michael Thomas argues that heat pumps are “the boring climate solution we need to pay more attention to” because they offer massive savings for heating and cooling and substantially reduce carbon emissions. (They were key to Golden Real Estate making its office net zero energy.) Thomas will also talk about why cold-climate states like Maine have some of the best opportunities for heat pump adoption while climates like Colorado will be harder to electrify with heat pumps.

His research has been featured on NPR, CNBC, WSJ, and dozens of other national publications. He has also written for The Atlantic, FastCompany, and Quartz. www.carbonswitch.co

The event will be recorded and be available on the CRES Youtube channel.

Let’s Call It What It Is: ‘Climate Destabilization’

Regular readers of this column know that I’m a big proponent of addressing climate change. We are definitely feeling the effects of not addressing it this year with the “heat domes.”

Years ago, I suggested we refer to climate change as “climate destabilization,” because the kinds of flood/drought, hot/cold episodes we are witnessing demonstrate exactly that. Although I’m not a scientist, I understand science, and I know that the jet stream is affected by changes in the Arctic, and the Arctic has been warming faster than the rest of the planet, as proven by the rapid reduction in summer ice. The heat domes of summer and the polar vortexes of the winter are direct results of that polar warming.

We are fortunate to have the climate change deniers out of power so that we can finally address climate change. Have we passed the tipping point?  A few years ago, citing the loss of summer ice in the Arctic, I said we may be, but we shouldn’t use that as a reason to stand by as the jet stream continues to lash the planet and as the Gulf Stream, responsible for keeping Europe temperate.

We can’t do everything the world needs, but the world needs everything we can do.

Redfin Survey Suggests Colorado Will See Influx of Buyers Due to Climate Fears

A recent survey of 2,000 U.S. residents by Redfin found that three-quarters of Americans are hesitant to buy homes in areas with a high climate risk. Those risks include more severe hurricanes & tornadoes, flooding, higher temperatures, wildfires, and rising sea levels.

It’s not hard to see why Colorado would be a favored destination for “climate refugees.” I have sold several homes to Californians recently, including just this month to my stepson, who currently lives in Sherman Oaks. 

We Realtors are seeing more and more of our listings going to out-of-state buyers, subjecting local buyers to increased competition in bidding wars.

If you’ve been paying attention to national weather reports, you can understand this trend. In California, the last two fire seasons have been terrifying. Last week’s earthquake in Los Angeles could have added to the situation.

In the Midwest, we have seen tornado after tornado destroying entire neighborhoods. And rising water temperatures in the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico are promising increasingly severe hurricanes and flooding.

The Redfin survey broke down by age the reluctance of home buyers to purchase a home in such areas. What it found was that buyers between 35 and 44 years old have the highest reluctance, with buyers between 25 and 34 years old having the second highest reluctance to buy in such areas.

Fifty-nine percent of persons between 35 and 44 years old said that the increasing intensity and frequency of natural disasters played a role in their decision about where to move.  Fifty-eight percent said that extreme temperatures played a role, and 48% said that rising sea levels played a role in their decision.

For people 25 to 34 years old, the percentages were 52%, 50% and 35% respectively.

The lowest percentage of reluctance was among the oldest buyers surveyed, those between 55 and 64 years old. (For some unexplained reason, Redfin didn’t survey people 65 and older.) Only 28% of that age group said that natural disasters and rising temperatures were a factor in their decision to buy, and only 15% cited rising sea levels as a factor.

Among my own clients, I have been surprised at how many sellers — all of them seniors — have relocated to Texas and Florida. For some it was to be close to family. For others it was because of lower home prices. They benefited from our runaway seller’s market, buying equivalent homes for much less money in those states.

“Climate change is making certain parts of the country less desirable to live in,” says Redfin’s chief economist. “As Americans leave places that are frequently on fire or at risk of going underwater, the destinations that don’t face those risks will become increasingly competitive and expensive.”

Perhaps the Denver Post should bring back the phrase, “Climate Capital of the World,” below its front-page logo.

Environmental Film Festival Opens Virtually This Weekend: See the Films Online!

With Golden Real Estate’s commitment to sustainability, it’s only natural that we have co-sponsored the Colorado Environmental Film Festival for at least a decade, and we’re happy to co-sponsor it again this year.

The silver lining of the Covid-19 pandemic is that events like this are going virtual, making it possible for many more people (including me!) to see any or all of the films at home and on our own timetable. In past years, I was lucky to see even a few of the films, especially since I also needed to man our company’s table in the festival’s Eco-Expo.

The festival runs from Feb. 12th to Feb. 21st at www.CEFF.net. The three-part mission of the festival, as stated on its home page, is:

Inspire: With a growing public awareness for the environment, CEFF aims to increase this groundswell through inspirational and educational films which help motivate people to make a difference in their community.

Educate: CEFF’s films and  programs help people build the knowledge and skills they need to make environmentally responsible choices.

Motivate: CEFF wants audiences to be a part of the solution to today’s environmental issues and motivates audiences to make a difference in their local environment.

This year’s festival has 75 films in 22 collections. You can buy an all-access pass on their website for $70 (less than $1 per film), a 5-collection pass for $35, or a 1-collection pass for $10.

As I said above, you can view any film at any time during the ten days of the festival, but once you unlock a collection, you need to view its films within 72 hours.

As in past years, the festival’s films include both shorts and full-length films. I’m getting an all-access pass and look forward to seeing as many as possible!

Although most of the films are “on demand,” selected films will be live streamed so that you can watch with the filmmaker and an audience and chat about it during the film and exchange comments, like on Zoom, afterwards. These live streams will be archived and can be viewed on demand later.

There will also be live online “lunch and learns” (one of which is a “Vegan Fusion Cooking Demonstration”) and the Eco-Expo will go virtual too, with live visits to the booths of exhibitors during five “happy hours.”

There will be an “Opening Night Watch Party” featuring a short documentary on electronic waste and a feature film, “The Story of Plastic.” At this event, awards will also be presented for the winning films in each of several categories. Again, if you miss this event, you can stream it later.

The “Closing Night Watch Party” from 7 to 10:30 pm on Feb. 20th is an exception. It can only be viewed live and will not be streamed on demand later. It includes two films, The Catalyst and Beyond Zero, that you cannot pause or rewind. These are summarized on the website. I’m looking forward to these in particular, since the first one is a 6-minute film about going net zero in a home, and the second is a much longer film about a billion-dollar global energy company that committed itself to going beyond net zero by 2020. You can watch a trailer for it on the website.

The festival also has a photography component, and one of the live events (viewable later) is a keynote speech on Feb. 13th by famed photographer Russ Burden, who will show his Serengeti photos.

Of the 22 film collections, several contain films on a variety of different subjects, but there are collections on individual subjects, including: Climate Change; Colorado Issues; International Issues; Oil and Gas; Public Lands and Parks; Rivers; Solar Power; Water Issues; and Wildlife. One collection features various short films. (Each of those links takes you to a page with a list of all the films contained in that collection.)

For the Eco-Expo exhibitors like Golden Real Estate, this year’s virtual format is a big win, because each “exhibitor” has a link you can click on to learn about that company or organization. In our case, you click on Golden Real Estate to view a short video tour of the sustainable features which have made our office a true “net zero energy” facility. You wouldn’t get that opportunity standing at our booth in the physical exhibit hall.

Other exhibitors you’ll enjoy learning about include GoFarm, Metro Denver Green Homes Tour, Citizens Climate Lobby, Luvin Arms Animal Sanctuary, Waste Management Recycling, Population Connection, and Tower Garden by Juice Plus. (These links become active on Friday, Feb. 12th.) I’m looking forward to seeing their videos, because in past years I was too busy manning our own booth to visit theirs!

The festival has always featured films by our youth (18 & under). This year there’s a live stream at 10 a.m. on Saturday the 13th called Filmmaking 101 for Young Filmmakers(also viewable later). Here’s a paragraph from the website: Any young aspiring filmmaker can join experts from Talk to the Camera for a fun, interactive workshop and introduction to the CEFF Youth Filmmaker Festival Challenge. Submit your storyboard to CEFF by Sunday, February 21…. Winner(s) will receive mentoring from a professional filmmaker in 2021 to help you complete and submit your youth environmental film for CEFF’s 2022 Festival!

There are some creative solutions to the lack of in-person events, including “Dinner and a Movie” on Feb. 13th & 19th in conjunction with Tributary Food Hall. You order a 3-course meal-to-go from the online menu for $40 including a ticket to one of the 22 film collections, and pick up your food between 3 and 7 pm to enjoy at home. If you already have the movie ticket, the charge is $35.

Visit the Virtual Festival Home for all the details and to buy tickets — http://ceff.eventive.org — and enjoy all the 15th annual Colorado Environmental Film Festival has to offer from the comfort and safety or your own home! That web page has a useful calendar showing all the events that are live streamed.

The 14th Colorado Environmental Film Festival Is Feb. 20-23

With our area’s historic reputation for environmental responsibility, it’s not surprising that Golden is the birthplace and home of the nation’s leading film festival focused on environmental issues. And it won’t surprise you that Golden Real Estate has been a sponsor of CEFF for most of the festival’s life.

I love how this festival is structured, combining local, national and international films — including by children — in both short and feature-length formats. The festival’s opening reception and award ceremony (with film screening) on Thursday, February 20th, is free to attend, as is the reception and Eco Expo on Saturday, Feb. 22nd, where you can enjoy free food and beverages as you visit 20 or so exhibitors of environmentally friendly products from home hydroponic towers to solar panels, to companies which can make your home more energy efficient. We’re sharing Golden Real Estate’s booth with Good Business Colorado, whose membership includes over 210 like-minded businesses committed to sustainability.

You can peruse the 60 films being screened at www.CEFF.net. The films are bundled into four screening sessions on Friday and Saturday — 10 a.m. (10:30 on Saturday), 1 p.m., 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. — plus the 7:30 p.m. free session on Thursday and two afternoon sessions on Sunday that will feature the films which won awards. The website lists and describes the films included in each session. You can purchase tickets on the website. Prices range from $9 for a single session ($4 for children under 12) up to $20 or $25 for a day pass and $65 for an all-access pass.

There are two theaters for each session, and each session includes 2 to 5 films, depending on length. The Friday morning session (CEFF 4 Kids) is limited to students, including those who are home-schooled, by advance reservation.

The films explore the undeniable and inescapable interconnection of Earth’s ecology, societies and economies. Audiences will be entertained and will leave inspired, surprised, motivated and transformed through events that will involve audience members and filmmakers in thought-provoking dialogues and forums about the films.

Still photography is a big part of each year’s festival, too, with environmentally themed photographs adorning the walls of the American Mountaineering Center, where the festival takes place. On Friday at 5 p.m. there is a photography reception, with a keynote address at 6:30 by photographer Cheryl Opperman on “The art of communication through photographs.”

The Eco Expo opens at noon on Friday and Saturday only.  Look for us at our booth!

You’re Invited to a ‘Climate Reality’ Event Next Wednesday, Nov. 20th, 6-8 pm

Next Wednesday, Nov. 20th, from 6 to 8 p.m., Golden Real Estate is hosting a Climate Reality Project event called  “24 Hours of Reality: Truth in Action.”

Think of it as a “teach-in” where you can deepen your knowledge of climate facts. About 1,000 of these presentations are taking place within a 24-hour period across the globe. Fifteen of them are within the Denver metro area alone.

Our Net Zero Energy office at 17695 S. Golden Road in Golden is a suitable venue for this presentation. Think of it as an example of steps you can take at home or work to participate in the mitigation of climate change’s impacts on our planet.

Our presenter is Owen Perkins, who, like all Climate Reality Project presenters, has been personally trained by former vice president Al Gore on the topic of climate change.

Register for this event by emailing Jim@GoldenRealEstate.com or by texting Jim Smith at 303-525-1851. Refreshments will be provided. Reservations are essential, since space is limited.

Here’s some more information from ClimateRealityProject.org:Truth in Action  is a daylong global conversation on the climate crisis and how we solve it.  You want to know the truth of what’s happening to our climate. But you also want to know what we can do to solve this crisis before it’s too late. You want to know what you personally can do to make a difference… 

“Research suggests that one of the most critical things you can do right now is talk to others about the climate crisis. When we have conversations about the crisis, we shine a light on its importance in our own communities, and make it clear to our friends, families, and neighbors that this is something serious enough to talk about. In this way, we can shift public perception and increase support for taking swift action.”

Free eBook on Solar Power with ‘The Property Brothers’

KNOWLEDGE IS POWER is the name of the free eBook, which you can download below.

The simple, undeniable fact is this: The sun can provide more energy in an hour than all of humanity uses in a year. We’re talking about an inexhaustible supply of clean, safe, reliable power that people and countries across the planet can access to power their lives and economies.

Even still, fossil fuel utilities continue to make billions of dollars from dirty energy monopolies – while the rest of us pay the consequences.

But we can flip the script by taking bold action.

That’s why Climate Reality has teamed up with HGTV’s Property Brothers co-host and solar energy advocate Jonathan Scott for Knowledge is Power, a new e-book about the incredible benefits of solar energy and the deceptive tactics fossil fuel utilities are using to protect their bottom lines at the expense of every person on the planet.

The benefits of solar don’t end with lower power bills. Cutting carbon pollution? Check. Empowering communities? Check. Providing energy independence? Check. Creating good jobs? Check and check.

Learn more about this incredible resource – and how together we can take control of our energy future – by getting your free download of Knowledge is Power today

Thoughts From Attending My 50th Class Reunion at MIT

Forgive me for straying from my usual topic of real estate — I took some time off with Rita to attend my 50th reunion at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology last week, and I was super-inspired by the experience of returning to the Institute for what was more than just a party. It was an immersion  into the continuing impact that MIT is having on the world of science and technology.

Reunions at MIT are probably unlike those at any other college or university. Yes, there is partying, but roughly half the events were educational in nature, updating alums on current research regarding important topics of the day. This year the dominant topic was climate change — something I wrote about, quite coincidentally, in last week’s column.

Not only was climate change the subject of Michael Bloomberg’s commencement address (there’s a video link for it at http://news.mit.edu), but the 3-hour Technology Day symposium the following morning was all about climate change. The 1,200-seat auditorium was filled to capacity with alumni eager to be updated on MIT research about this important topic, and they were fully engaged to the very end.

Technology Day at MIT – click here for archived 3-hour video.

When I attended MIT 50 years ago, undergraduate men vastly outnumbered the undergraduate women, who barely filled the one dormitory provided for them.  Over the past 20 years, women have risen to comprise 46% of the undergraduate student body and 35% of the graduate student body, spanning every academic discipline. This gender equity was evident in Saturday’s symposium, too. Four of the six presenters, including the moderator, were women.

In his commencement address, the former NYC mayor observed that the technology for successfully addressing climate change is largely in place (except for bringing it to scale), and challenged graduates to go out into the world not just to expand upon it, but to build the political will to deploy it. I was reminded of that statement the following day while attending a Class of ’69 discussion about anti-Vietnam war activism at MIT during our time on campus. During the Q&A, a fellow ’69 alum said he had interviewed several undergraduates about political activism, which is not currently evident on campus. The impression he got is that the students are all “heads down,” concentrating on solving the world’s problems — such as climate change — undistracted by the politics that excite and divide those of us beyond the walls of academia.  Reflecting on that analysis, as someone who was very active politically as a 1960s undergrad and is still active now, I suspect it’s because nowadays, unlike in the 1960s, the Institute and its students are on the same page about such issues, sharing the same commitment to addressing commonly accepted world problems.

(In the unlikely event that President Trump were to stage a campaign rally in the Boston area, I get the impression there would be a sudden upwelling of activism at all local universities, including MIT, but the MIT activists would be focusing their vitrol on the President’s denial of climate change.)

Climate change, of course, is only one of the “world’s great challenges” which MIT is committed in its mission statement to addressing through academic research. We learned in Saturday’s symposium about ground breaking research on mass storage battery systems and alternatives to blast furnaces for creating steel. Those inventions likewise contribute in a big way to sustaining the livability of our planet.

A deceased member of the class of ’69, Bob Swanson, who cofounded Genentech, is generally credited with creating the biotech industry. Scores of biotech businesses now populate the high rises on Kendall Square, adjacent to the MIT campus. A tribute to his accomplishments during one of the luncheons was most inspiring.

It was hard not to come away from the reunion weekend without a deep appreciation of what MIT and its graduates can and are accomplishing in addressing the planet’s most important challenges.  I consider myself very fortunate to be among those who were given the privilege of being immersed in that environment for four or more years, however long ago.

A videographer asked members of my class what their biggest learning was from MIT.  My answer to that question referenced the chemical process of osmosis, a secondary definition of which, according to Google is, “the process of gradual or unconscious assimilation of ideas, knowledge, etc.” Just being in that environment amidst the faculty, administration and fellow students was its own education through osmosis. This may be hard to understand if you weren’t there, but my classmates would probably all nod in agreement.

I return from my reunion, renewed in my appreciation of science and technology and of all that my alma mater contributes to their positive application to society.

PS: I was honored when MIT chose to feature me in a pre-reunion “Slice of MIT” blog post, focusing on what I have done to transition Golden Real Estate’s office to “net zero energy.” Here’s a link to that blog post.

Climate Change, Our Planet’s Most Pressing Issue

Colorado has been blessed with probably the least impact of climate change, but eventually it will catch up with us.  Meanwhile, we watch, stunned, not only by the tornadoes, hurricanes, wildfires and flooding in other sections of the country, but also by the failure of the major networks to mention climate change as the culprit and to point out that it will only get worse over time.

Over 5 years ago, in 2014, the headline on my column was “We May Have Already Passed the Tipping Point on Climate Change.”  Here is what I wrote back then:

Each January, political leaders shower us with speeches on the State of the Union, the State, the City and other jurisdictions.  No one presents a State of the Planet speech, but if someone did, I suspect climate change would be topic #1 — and for good reason.

My friend and mentor, Steve Stevens, sent me a chart (below) showing the decline in late summer Arctic sea ice. It’s a wake-up call regarding climate change.

I don’t have a degree in science, but I do understand science enough to know this chart’s significance.

If you studied any science — or own an automobile — you know that white surfaces reflect solar heat, whereas dark surfaces (open ocean, for example) absorb it. The loss of sea ice does not just indicate global warming, it accelerates it, which makes one worry whether it’s already too late to reverse the effects of human-caused global warming.

Climate change deniers may celebrate the fact that the Arctic Ocean is becoming increasingly navigable in the summer, but they need to connect the dots between global warming and the whipsawing we now see in our day-to-day weather. 

I’d be curious to see the statistics on how many times the network news programs featured severe weather reports in 2013 versus previous years.  I can’t remember an evening in which weather wasn’t a major or lead story.

Our earth’s climate has been de-stabilized. Had you heard of the polar vortex before this year?  I hadn’t.  The uninformed will say that our cold weather proves that the earth is not warming, but how naïve is that?  It’s global warming that is causing extremes, both of temperature and precipitation — which is caused by warming. I don’t hear them questioning El Nino, in which natural changes in ocean temperature affect climate.

Is there time to reverse this situation?  Maybe not. But we certainly don’t have time to debate its existence with climate change deniers.

[End of my 2014 column]

Night after night, we see news reports of unprecedented severe weather around the country, but rarely is the connection to climate change mentioned. Our president’s failure to address climate change may be part of his legacy.