By Michael Jay Tucker
Just a short time ago (November 7, to be exact) Think Progress ran an extremely troubling article. In White House admits Trump climate policies will destroy all U.S. coastal property, Joe Romm noted that the Administration’s own recently released climate-change report openly confessed that global warming is real, and that, perhaps quite soon, much of the prime real estate currently located on this nation’s coasts will be underwater.
Yet, while that report is still warm from the presses, Trump and his people are calling climate change “junk science,” defunding programs designed to promote renewable energy, and encouraging the consumption of oil, coal, and other fossil fuels.
It is, in short, a fascinating exercise in sustained and dedicated doublethink. We will admit with one hand what we will deny with the other.
Curiously, I’ve got a personal take on this story. I’ve lived part of it. So, ready for an anecdote? Here goes.
My late parents loved South Padre Island, Texas. If you haven’t been there, give it a visit sometime. It’s pretty wild during spring break, but the rest of the year it is a lovely and peaceful little village on the sea…or, more precisely, on a barrier island just off the coast of Texas in the Gulf of Mexico.
As I say, my parents loved it. In fact, they bought a house there some decades ago. It wasn’t a big house—certainly not in the league of the huge quasi-mansions that have cropped up on the island over the last few years. But, as a vacation home, it was lovely. It was a classic, old-fashioned beach home, build mostly of wood, and set up on tall wooden stilts…pylons…so that during storms, the water could come up quite high, and still leave the living spaces unaffected.
Honestly, I personally didn’t spend a whole lot of time, though my son spent many a happy summer there when he was younger. In fact, after my parents died, the family more or less thought that he’d be the one to take care of it. He’s an architect with construction skills, and he’s married to a landscape architect, and neither husband nor wife is any stranger to hard work (God knows!). Plus, they were living in Brownsville, Texas, at the time, which is just a few miles from SPI. So, it all seemed to fit nicely.
But…then…they both got jobs in San Antonio. And, more to the point, I got to looking very hard at what we were paying to keep the property. I was the “successor trustee” of the estate, you see. That meant that mostly I kept the books and wrote checks.
And the checks I was writing for the house on SPI were growing distressingly large. Oh, maintenance and repair we could handle easily enough. But taxes were brutal—Texas has no income tax, you see. So a big chunk of state revenues come from real estate taxes. In theory, this is terribly, terribly libertarian and all that. In practice, it means that those who have large incomes are supported by those who may have land but not necessarily money. It is a serious issue in ranching country.
And, as bad for me, sometimes, was insurance…
You see, insurance companies know perfectly well what’s coming. They’ve done their studies. They’ve read the climate reports. They have watched storms grow ever more powerful and plentiful.
So, private companies no longer sell insurance for weather-related damage on SPI. They’ll insure you for fire and theft, but not for storm and flood. As a result, the state of Texas itself must offer such insurance, and does so through something called Texas Wind and Hail. The policies are sold through private agencies, but the insurance provider is the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association.
And kudos, by the way, to the folks of Texas Wind and Hail. They do a difficult job and they do it well. But, the issue for me was that I was paying two different, and (for me) very expensive insurance bills— a regular homeowners policy and a storm-damage policy.
Oh, and by the way, there was no guarantee that the aforesaid storm policy wouldn’t go up in price. The state of Texas has its share of fools, I’m sure, but none of them are working in the offices of Texas Wind and Hail.
We couldn’t afford what was coming in future, and I knew it. So, finally, I sold the house to an individual who, I think, plans to develop the property, and who (I suspect) may have deeper pockets than I.
It was a bit of a wrench for me to make that sale. Like I say, it had been one my parents’ favorite places in the world. And I’d hoped my son would eventually have inherited it. I thought it would be a place where members of the family would have been going on summer vacations for many generations to come.
But, it just wasn’t doable. And all because of climate change.
And here’s the rub. Texas is one of those places where climate change denialism is common…even in, or particularly in, certain government circles. The governor himself, Greg Abbot, has voiced considerable doubt about global warming, and suggested that we must first and foremost pay attention to our economy.
But consider the disconnect here. On one side, we have insurance companies doing business in Texas, not to mention certain agencies connected to the state government, acting as if climate change is a given and that only a idiot would fail to respond to it. Then, on the other side, we have individuals in that same state government suggesting that it doesn’t exist.
There is something a bit curious in that. Also, maybe terrifying…
Still, put up against what we see now at the Federal level, it is small and petty. For what could damage lives and property on South Padre is limited to the island itself.
But what happens on the national level…on the world level…on the level at which the White House plays…
That could damage all life. And forever.
And the beach paradise that I hoped to leave to my heirs will seem so very small a loss…
Compared to the end…