The "location, location, location" draw of the shore is putting humans in a role akin to lemmings during their mythical march to the sea.
And that could give home buyers cause to pause when considering a beach home or dwelling near the sea.
One in 10 people worldwide, including one in eight city-dwellers, live less than 10 meters (33 feet) above sea-level and near the coast and are at risk for flooding and stronger storms exacerbated by climate change, according to a new global warming study.
That amounts to about 634 million people in more than 180 nations at risk, primarily in Asia but also in Coastal America, according to new research from Gordon McGranahan of the London-based International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) and his colleagues, Deborah Balk and Bridget Anderson, at the City University of New York and Columbia University.
"Assessing The Risks Of Climate Change And Human Settlements" , says low lying-development digs up a double whammy.
Human masses flock to a zone that is at higher risk of suffering from ever more inclement weather, rising sea-levels and flooding. Compared to regions with smaller, thinner populations, the higher population at greater density puts more people in harms way, making survival, emergency and rescue operations more difficult should a natural disaster hit.
Urban developments also exacerbate those conditions by degrading ecosystems, especially mangroves, coastal wetlands, marshes and swamps -- like those in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast -- that can provide natural barriers against the damage of rising sea-levels and strong storms.
The draw of an ocean view, water works and boating activities, related tourism and commerce and other attractions are a lure for large numbers of both permanent residents and visitors.
The Nation Association of Realtors' last "Second Home Sales Report" said, in describing their second home's most valued characteristics, 40 percent (the greatest share) said ocean, river or lake proximity was tops. When asked what activities of interest affected their decision to buy a vacation home, again, the greatest share, 37 percent, said the beach, lake or water sports, with another 9 percent going for boating.
While the new study from IIED is the first global study to map populations at greatest risk from rising sea levels it isn't the first to make the rising tide claim.
In February 2007, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a consortium of about 4000 international climate scientists, said that sea-levels were likely to rise by up to 59 centimeters (nearly two feet) by the end of the 21st century, if fossil fuel consumption and economic growth continued unabated.
Stefan Rahmstorf at the Potsdam (Germany) Institute for Climate Impact Research, published a study suggesting that IPCC forecasts could be on the conservative side , but conceded different measuring approaches could create the differences.
"It is one of the strengths of the IPCC, to be very conservative and cautious and not overstate any climate change risk," Rahmstorf told the Associated Press.
When Rahmstorf made his original findings he told the Reuters news service, "In the long run, sea level rises are going to be the most severe impact of global warming on human society," creating a "managed retreat" of tens of millions of "sea level refugees," should climate change continue.
Rahmstorf said Florida is one of the globe's most endangered areas when it comes to global warming's impact on sea levels.
"The Florida beach coast is not a good long term proposition. Anything right at sea level. There won't be much left of Alviso (CA, just north of San Jose). New Orleans is an example. People on genuine beach front property, it seems to me, in the long term, for them it's a dicey proposition about whether you are going to be under water 50 years or 100 years from now unless there's some sort of unexpected reversal," said Philip J. Trounstine, director of the Survey & Policy Research Institute at San Jose (CA) State University.
Last summer, before scientists widely suggested the potential for a global warming-caused inland migration, RealtyTimes put to Trounstine and other housing and community experts, the question of choosing a home -- or not choosing a home -- based on the potential threat from rising sea levels and other global warming fallout.
In general, experts said people today don't think about packing up and moving away from global warming-related high-risk zones any more than they think about leaving Cyclone Alley, Hurricane Holler or Earthquake Land.
"Everybody is not going to pick up and move today, but with 15 to 20 percent of the population moving every year, there are a growing number of people beginning to ask this question," said John McIlwain, an Urban Land Institute senior resident fellow who holds the institute's J. Ronald Terwilliger Chair for Housing.
"People aren't going to sit there and ask, 'Should I move?', but when they have decided to move they will think about where they should move," said McIlwain.