Previous article, Green Retirement Communities (GRC), was dedicated to explaining how living in green buildings and ensuing green practices can empower seniors to minimize their personal as well as collective greenhouse gases emissions. Whereas the focus of this article is to rehash the potential impact of climate change on various aspects of our society and also to provide a basic understanding about the attributes of the climate-resilient cities which could very well be targeted for retirement.
Climate change is real and nobody can afford to ignore the realities associated with climate change when it comes to planning a retirement.
The United Nations Secretary General, António Guterres, has demanded action on climate change after July 2019 was the hottest month ever recorded. Rising temperatures, melting ice caps, raising sea levels, and increasing the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events confirm that the fact that climate change is real.
The following factors may have a direct or indirect impact on retirement planning:
- The greatest threat to financial solvency for early retirees is climate change:
- Since 1980, extreme weather has cost $1.6 trillion. Munich Re, the world’s largest reinsurance firm, blamed climate change for $24 billion of losses in the California wildfires. It warned that insurance firms will have to raise premiums to cover rising costs from extreme weather. That could make insurance too expensive for most people;
- Scientists estimated that, if temperatures only rose 2 C, global gross domestic product (GDP) would fall 15 percent. If temperatures rose to 3 C, global GDP would fall 25 percent. If nothing is done, temperatures will rise by 4 C by 2100. Global GDP would decline by more than 30 percent from 2010 levels. That’s worse than the Great Depression, where global trade fell 25 percent. The only difference is that it would be permanent; and
- The World Employment and Social Outlook 2018 estimated that climate change threatens 1.2 billion jobs.
- Impact of climate change on oceans:
- The oceans absorbed most of the added CO2 from the atmosphere. In response, they’ve become 30 percent more acidic since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. This is causing a mass extinction of sea life. For example, around half of the world’s coral reefs have died in the last 30 years;
- In addition to absorbing C02, the oceans have also absorbed 90 percent of the heat. Consequently, it caused rising sea levels and flooding;
- Here is another fact, the top 2,300 feet of the ocean has warmed 0.3 degrees since 1969. The last time the ocean was this warm was 100,000 years ago. Sea levels were 20 to 30 feet higher. The ocean has warmed so fast that there hasn’t been enough time for higher temperatures to melt the arctic ice caps. As it does, sea levels will catch up to where they were last time the ocean was this warm. That’s enough to flood New York, London, and Miami; and
- A 2019 study found that a warming ocean has pushed down 4 percent since 1920. That’s 1.4 million metric tons. In the North Atlantic and Sea of Japan, that decline is 35 percent. That affects Atlantic cod, haddock, and herring. Many species are threatened with extinction. That affects the 3 billion people who rely on fish for their primary source of protein. It also affects the $100 billion fishing industry and the 56 million people employed. It especially affects the United States, which imports 90 percent of its seafood.
- Climate change creates mass migration around the world:
- Immigrants are leaving flooded coastlines, drought-stricken farmlands, and areas of extreme natural disasters. Since 2008, extreme weather has displaced 22.5 million people according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. By 2050, climate change will force 700 million people to emigrate.
According to the Four National Climate Assessment Report, published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) clearly indicates that climate change is real and accelerating. The evidence in the report also indicates that climate change will make many things — health, housing, and transportation, to name the most important — more costly and make it much harder for people to save for retirement. This is especially true for vulnerable populations such as lower-income families and communities of color.
Climate change harms people’s health. Droughts, for instance, lead to a more widespread fungus that causes Valley fever. And, worse air pollution contributes to a decline in respiratory and cardiovascular health. In worse health, people will have to miss work more often, they will earn less, and they will have to retire earlier. They will both face higher medical bills while they work and in retirement and earn and save less over the course of their careers.
The costs of housing in a large part of the country will also go up. For one, people either spend the money to better cope with the consequences of extreme weather or they suffer through the consequences such as hotter homes, poorer air quality and more water damage. Either way, housing becomes more costly as people pay more, live in lower quality housing or both pay more for lower quality homes.
At the same time climate change will reduce the value of people’s houses, which are often their largest assets. It increases the chance of damage to houses, which translates into higher homeowners’ insurance costs and makes it harder for people to sell their houses. People will not only live in worse conditions while they work, but they will also have fewer savings. Retirees in particular will need to spend more money on upgrades and upkeep to live in relative physical comfort, but they will have less money to do so.
While it is important to be aware of the impact of climate change in planning retirement, it is also important to check out the facilities and amenities provided by a retirement home, including:
- Food Considerations;
- Health Care Concerns;
- Green Building;
- Green Practices;
- Staff Services;
- Current Residents;
- Type of on-site Security Measures;
- Outside Activities;
- Cleanliness; and
Perhaps the fundamental concern for selecting a retirement home could be the LOCATION for the seniors who are reasonably comfortable with their finances. They are faced with the question – where to live and how to choose a retirement location?
Christian Weller, a professor of public policy and public affairs at the University of Massachusetts in Boston, said cities are the best option for retirement in a changing climate because of their access to the goods and services people need, especially medical care. Older people tend to have more health issues, so, not unlike today, being close to a doctor or hospital—even if circumstances have impacted your expected mode of transportation—is crucial.
Choosing which city may be best, however, is more difficult. Where does one want to be living when temperatures rise? The consensus is that most elderly people especially will need to avoid extreme heat, rising coastal waters, and issues like wildfires, hurricanes, and drought. Some of the U.S. cities with optimal locations for climate change include Boise, Idaho, and San Francisco which, though coastal, is at a high enough elevation to be safe. It also provides for cooler temperatures than many other cities at the same latitude.
In a new series of research papers commissioned by the Canadian cities Edmonton and Calgary, themes related to building climate-resilient cities are explored. Many cities are already beginning to build resilience in response to emerging threats associated with climate change, the strategies they are adopting are often win-win results, making them healthier, more attractive places to live and do business. Resilience is the key. It demonstrates city’s willingness to embrace innovative culture. According to the International Institute for Sustainable Development, here are eight examples of actions cities which can take to foster resilience:
- Chicago, United States: Supporting Vertical Farms Through Better Zoning;
- Iowa, United States: Using historical data to build robustness in the face of flooding;
- Austin, United States: Saving residents money through smart grids;
- Mississauga, Canada: Low-impact development standards for cleaner drinking water and less flooding;
- Gibsons, Canada: Taking advantage of the lower costs and higher resiliency of natural systems;
- St. Paul, United States: Establishing an urban ecosystem;
- Netherlands: Proactively planning for flooding by making room for rivers; and
- Calgary and Edmonton, Canada: Using multiple bottom lines.
These climate-resilient cities were built capitalizing on the following:
- Agriculture and Food Security;
- Transportation Infrastructure;
- Electricity & Information and Communication Technology Infrastructure;
- Water Supply and Sanitation;
- Economics and Finance;
- Urban Ecosystems; and
- Transformational Adaptation.
24 August 2019 – Ottawa, Ontario, Canada