2018/10/10: it’s not that the news about climate has changed, but that the scientific community is finally discarding caution in describing the implications of its own finding.
They have also, thankfully, offered a practical suggestion, proposing the imposition of a carbon tax many, many times higher than those currently in use or being considered — they propose a tax of up to $5,000 per ton of carbon dioxide by 2030, growing to $27,000 per ton by 2100. Today, the average price of carbon across 42 major economies is just $8 per ton. The new Nobel laureate in economics, William Nordhaus, made his name by almost inventing the economic study of climate change, and his preferred carbon tax is $40 per ton — which would probably land us at about 3.5 degrees of warming. He considers that grotesque level “optimal.”
But a carbon tax is only a spark to action, not action itself. And the action needed is at a scale and a speed almost unimaginable to most of us. The IPCC report called it unprecedented. Other activists often see one precedent, in all of human history, citing the model of how the United States prepared for World War II, and calling for a global mobilization of that kind — all of the world’s rivalrous societies and nationalistic governments and self-interested industries organized around the common pursuit of a stable and comfortable climate as though warming was an existential threat.
It is. And the World War II mobilization metaphor is not hyperbole.
A few weeks ago, as the IPCC report loomed, I had lunch with a prominent climate scientist who’d been involved in earlier reports and has done considerable work on local preparedness as well. I asked if he thought New York would eventually build a sea wall or surge barrier to protect the city from sea-level rise and flooding. Yes, he said, Manhattan will be protected, at any cost. But major infrastructure projects like these take decades — typically about 30 years. Even if we began building today, he said, the barrier would not be finished in time to save Howard Beach and other parts of southern Queens and Brooklyn. Soon enough, he said, you’ll see the city adjust accordingly — halting new infrastructure projects there, eventually pulling back from even quotidian maintenance like sewer repairs and generally signaling to current residents that they will not be able to leave behind their homes, when they die, to their children. And of course a sea wall to protect New York only encloses the narrows of New York Harbor, leaving all of Long Island exposed.
This is just the threat from sea level, and just one (very rich) metropolitan area. The world is much bigger than that, but so is climate change. It is also very fast, with more than half the carbon humanity has ever emitted into the atmosphere having come in just the last 25 years, since Al Gore published his first book on climate change. Monday’s IPCC may seem like a dramatic departure, and it is. But there is going to be much more like it coming. So long as we continue to squander what little time we have, the news will only get worse from here.
2018/10/10: there's a paradox here: New York real estate is valuable because of the people who want to live there because of the vibrancy of the city -- but as the city is choked off from real activity, the value of the real-estate begins to fall. And once the fall starts, it accelerates: as with all bubbles, a crisis of faith in the market precipitates a panicked sell-off, which deepens the crisis.
That dynamic is playing out in New York today: September 2018 sales volume is down 39% from September 2017, with prices dropping by 9%;
There is a ton of super-lux property about to enter the market: 9 skyscrapers this year, and 20 more by 2020.
Garrett Derderian of Stribling thinks the real number is more like 1:15, since, he claims, developers have been lowballing their supply numbers, mindful that a full picture will send prices falling further. “They are holding back homes that they would otherwise be actively marketing, and which would therefore show up in inventory figures,” he says. Inventory figures are being “significantly manipulated” by the practice of excluding this so-called shadow inventory, according to Miller.
Prices for super prime homes have been falling steadily. “In the market north of $10m, you’re seeing prices off anywhere from 10 to 30 per cent from the peak in 2014,” says Miller. In the third quarter of this year, the average home sold above $10m went for 13 per cent less than its asking price, the biggest discount of any price bracket tracked by Stribling.