Summer Signals: Pressing Concerns in Climate, Housing, and Governance
Excessive heat, wildfires, and intense hurricanes dominated summer.
The devastating fire in Maui should raise national alarms about the increasing threat of catastrophic disasters: “The Age of Climate Disaster Is Here.” Excessive heat this summer, persistent wildfires in Canada, and a potentially more intense hurricane season, shows there is need for urgent attention.
While it is still unknown what definitively ignited the Maui wildfire, evidence indicates a combination of weather factors are to blame. The Governor of Hawaii emphasized the role of global warming, drought, and a powerful offshore hurricane generating strong winds contributing to downed power lines and the blaze’s rapid spread. An alert by the National Weather Service had previously warned about the potential danger, citing the significant difference in atmospheric pressure between the offshore hurricane and the air north of Hawaii. This pressure gradient, coupled with dry conditions, posed a serious risk of both fires and damaging winds.
In New York City, there is also need for more attention on the continuing migrant crisis as the Governor of New York publicly criticized the White House for not speeding up work permits and federal aid. Over the past year 100,000 asylum-seekers who have come to New York City creating housing and fiscal pressures for the city and state.
And, as we near the unofficial end of summer and the Labor Day holiday weekend approaches, school bus driver shortages continue to intensify with no region of the country unaffected.
School Districts Continue to Face Bus Driver Shortages
The Shortage in School Bus Drivers Is Getting Worse The New York Times
New York City Draws More Focus on Migrant Crisis
As NYC Migrant Crisis Grows, Leaders Keep Passing the Buck Bloomberg CityLab
Higher Education Challenges on the Horizon
UW System schools project $58 million in shortfalls even as they chip away at expenses Wisconsin State Journal
Slashing Its Budget, West Virginia University Asks, What Is Essential? The New York Times
A researcher, as part of his graduate thesis at Columbia University, reviewed decades of building and planning records on historic row houses in New York City. Dwelling unit consolidation, an under-studied topic, is when two or more housing units are combined. Over the past 70 years, over 50,000 small multi-family buildings have been converted to one or two-families, resulting in a loss of approximately 100,000 units of housing. The ramifications of these losses contribute to the City’s housing affordability crisis. The thesis finds that dwelling unit consolidation is an “unintended consequence” of historic preservation. (Reported on in The City)
Climate Change and U.S. Property Insurance: A Stormy Mix Council on Foreign Relations — also check out The Age of Climate Disaster Is Here in Foreign Affairs, both by Alice Hill
American homeowners are confronting a rising risk as property insurance becomes scarcer. Escalating impacts of extreme weather events are causing private insurance companies to scale back coverage due to higher potential financial losses.
Ramifications of insurer retreat are particularly prominent in coastal U.S. states. These areas are experiencing reduced insurance coverage, while property insurance prices have risen significantly.
Higher insurance costs can lead to decreased property values. Excessive insurance expenses may push homeowners to forgo coverage, rendering them vulnerable to severe economic losses following natural disasters.
Potential strategies to address these challenges include refining land-use regulations to mitigate climate-related risks, fostering innovative insurance products, developing community-based insurance models, and accelerating efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Any opinions expressed herein are those of the author and the author alone.