Short New York Real Estate Because of Global Warming?

Stevey Cohen, head of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, wants you to short New York City real estate.

He doesn’t actually say that—Stevey isn’t a broker and his statements are not a solicitation to buy or to sell etc., etc.—but he does claim that the city will soon be under water, be “battered” by hurricanes, suffer “bouts” of heat stroke, and will generally suffer under the awful burden of global warming.

Thus, the clear implication of his recent New York Daily News op-ed is that if you don’t sell now, you’ll be under water: both literally and figuratively.

Stevey doesn’t use the words “global warming” to describe our predicament. Hardly anybody does anymore, and for the obvious reason. Since it is true that the Earth’s climate has never stayed still, that it has always been in flux, it will always be true that we poor humans will suffer climate change.

To raise the alarm of “Climate change!” is, and will always be, a perfectly truthful activity. No matter what happens—and something always happens—your prediction of “change” will always be accurate. It is an enviable position to be in. However, there is a hidden danger, which I discuss below.

The switch to “climate change” from “global warming” shows the immense, overwhelming importance of words in this debate. Use “global warming” and if the temperature doesn’t go up—if, that is, it has the temerity to go down—and you could end up looking like a fool, like poor Phil “I’ve Contemplated Suicide” Jones. But use “climate change”, then let the temperature do whatever it may: for each prediction, you come out smelling like New York City tap water, the best in the world.

But not for much longer. Because Stevey says we’re going to see more situations like the 2008 flash flood in Queens, which “forced raw sewage up residents’ toilets.” This is to be contrasted with the more typical situation of Queens residents forcing raw sewage down their toilets.

And that’s “only the beginning. We can expect that hotter summers will lead to increased deaths due to heat stroke and other stresses related to the impact of heat. Those with asthma and allergies will suffer from the impact of increased pollen due to longer growing seasons.”

I don’t know if Stevey has noticed, but he’s made at least two mistakes with this prediction. First, he has strayed into the realm of the testable. Say “more heat stroke” is on the way, and if we don’t see it, then he stands the chance of a busted forecast, accompanied by loss of face. He should have said, “We might see more heat stroke cases and other increases in hospitalization.”

See what I did? I kept the alarming news about heat stroke, but I married it to the certain-to-be-true “other increases.” My prediction cannot be wrong. His can.

Which leads to mistake two, a common one. I have returned recently from a glorious week in Florida, where I sat, with many old folk, in the hot sun and watched a series of baseball games. Not one of these fans dropped dead. Similar reports of non-dead dropping came from sunny Arizona, where other Spring Training games took place.

It’s possible that sudden heat can stress people who are unused to torrid weather, but by definition, people living under the evils of global warming will not be unused to hot weather. Stevey himself says hot spells are going to increase and be common.

These mistakes illustrate the danger of the climate change-global warming nomenclature switch. Because, through a trick with words you can never be wrong, you stand the risk of forgetting why. You might look back on your series of predictions, see that they were all accurate, and come to believe that you are infallible. This can lead to an obscenely inflated sense of self of the kind found these days in the White House.

Back to shorting real estate. Stevey Cohen says that sea-level rise and floods are on the way, particularly along the parkways that lead into the city. Also, a house that has a river running through it is everywhere less valuable than a dry one.

Therefore, those who believe Stevey’s predictions should be willing to bet on it. I am willing to take their Manhattan real estate off their hands at a discount that reflects the direness of global warming predictions. Say that Battery Park will be dunked by rising seas, then apartments down there should be worthless.

I’ll pay that price, and even kick in all associated taxes and transfer fees to anybody who actually believes Cohen’s predictions.

Any takers?


  1. Briggs


    Our pal Gav! He never disappoints.

  2. Les Johnson

    I have some real estate for you in Brooklyn, Mr. Briggs. Well, between Brooklyn and NYC, to be exact.

    Its a bit old, but well above the water line, so I am asking a premium price. A two-four of Moosehead, and its yours.

  3. Maybe he defines “work” as “run”, instead of the illogical assumption we deniers make that they produce something of value that can be measured and/or relied upon.

  4. Les, is it just over a mile long and at midpoint about 135 feet above the water line?

  5. Bernie

    What are you doing? I bought that yesterday from a guy on Canal Street. He is mailing me the paperwork as soon as my check clears.

  6. Bernie

    Sorry, the last message should have been for Les not 49erDweet – unless you are in it together.

  7. Doug M

    While the Brooklyn Bridge might not be for sale, don’t be surprised if the New Jersey Turpike is put on the block.

  8. dearieme

    “he does claim that the city will soon be under water..”: HE SAYS THAT AS IF IT’S A BAD THING.

  9. Here is a bet I am willing to make: The water level in NYCV will not rise 5 inches in the next decade and Mr. Cohen will not loose his job.

  10. Wade,

    The last sentence was good, but I prefer his earlier comment:

    “You can say, ‘You know what, I don’t trust the climate models, so I’m going to walk into the middle of the road with a blindfold on,’ ” Schmidt said. “But you know what, that’s not smart.”

    It’s difficult to disagree with that statement, although in the spirit of discussions of priors on this blog, it may not be as stupid as it sounds, depending on the road.

  11. Matt L: Spot on. Even though sightless, some country roads are best walked close to the center – unless one is strolling in Amish country.

  12. Chuckles

    @Bob Millman

    ‘Here is a bet I am willing to make: The water level in NYCV will not rise 5 inches in the next decade and Mr. Cohen will not loose his job.’

    Every 12 hours or so I’d say?

    Tides for Brooklyn Bridge starting with April 6, 2010.

    Day High Tide Height Sunrise Moon Time % Moon
    /Low Time Feet Sunset Visible

    Tu 6 High 3:00 AM 4.4 6:31 AM Rise 2:28 AM 55
    6 Low 9:13 AM 0.9 7:26 PM Set 12:01 PM
    6 High 3:41 PM 3.9
    6 Low 9:29 PM 1.3

    W 7 High 3:56 AM 4.2 6:30 AM Rise 3:02 AM 45
    7 Low 10:11 AM 0.9 7:27 PM Set 1:01 PM
    7 High 4:39 PM 3.9
    7 Low 10:29 PM 1.2

    Th 8 High 4:56 AM 4.1 6:28 AM Rise 3:32 AM 36
    8 Low 11:02 AM 0.8 7:28 PM Set 2:01 PM
    8 High 5:37 PM 4.0
    8 Low 11:22 PM 1.0

    F 9 High 5:54 AM 4.2 6:26 AM Rise 3:58 AM 27
    9 Low 11:47 AM 0.7 7:29 PM Set 3:01 PM
    9 High 6:29 PM 4.2

  13. To raise the alarm of “Climate change!” is, and will always be, a perfectly truthful activity. No matter what happens—and something always happens—your prediction of “change” will always be accurate.

    Will it? In what time frame? One could make a pretty good case that the “climate” has not “changed” during the Holocene. Weather is always changing, but climate?

    New York, for instance, has a maritime New England climate characterized by hot, muggy summers and cold, snowy winters with plenty of weatherly influence from the Gulf Steam. And that’s what it was when the Pilgrims landed, when Washington crossed the Delaware, when Babe Ruth hit his 500th home run, when Billary was elected Senator.

    It’s not like Maimi’s climate. Never was, never will be, at least not for the last 10,000 years and not for the next 10,000, either.

    I keep waiting for the “ravages” of climate change but the climate where I live (western Oregon) is exactly like it has always been for as long as anyone can remember.

    The weather? That’s a different story. Around here they say if you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes.

    But the climate? It’s the same old same old. It hasn’t changed for millennia and is VERY unlikely to change anytime soon. No palm trees, no cacti, no bougainvillea are going pop up around here. So I give no credence to the wild-eyed hysterical claim that the climate is going to change. It isn’t.

  14. This global warming hoax needs to stop. Enough already with all the fear mongering. If these Ivory Tower liberals are so insistent on stating that mankind causes global warming, how does one explain the fact that North America was under 3+ feet of ice 10000 years ago? I suppose the Big Bad Dinosaurs were driving their SUV’s. Mr. Cohen is not a scientist!

    Take care, Jay

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