“Estate agents told me not to talk: climate expert”

ABC News, 29th October 2008

A climate change scientist says real estate agents have threatened to make his life difficult if he continues to publish research about how vulnerable particular properties are to rising sea levels and coastal erosion.

Professor Andrew Pitman works at the Climate Change Research Centre at the University of New South Wales.

He says real estate agents do not like potential buyers asking questions about climate change based on his research.

Professor Pitman has told the ABC’s Local Radio that several agents have asked him to stop talking about how vulnerable certain properties are.

“More explicitly [they said] ‘We’re nervous about our particular market niche in a particular suburb’,” he said.

“And, ‘We are going to start making your life difficult if you keep pointing to climate change affecting our particular location’.”

Professor Pitman says he will now change the way he refers to his research even though the science is robust.

“I feel fairly secure in general statements about sea level rise and general statements about properties that are very close to the water being more vulnerable,” he said.

“But I won’t now point to specific locations as being a particularly sensitive, although it’s not very difficult to find out what those [properties] would be.”

He says with an expected 40 per cent rise in sea levels by 2050, properties that are close to the water will be more vulnerable.

Professor Pitman says he suspects the owners of beachfront properties that are at risk, or shoreline properties that are already frequently flooded, already know that they are at risk from rising sea levels.

Tim McKibbon from the Real Estate Institute says it is the first he has heard of agents trying to silence Professor Pitman.

“I have no knowledge of it. He hasn’t named anybody,” he said.

As a result, Mr McKibbon says it is difficult to substantiate the claim, but he is not aware that Professor Pitman’s research is under threat.

1 thought on ““Estate agents told me not to talk: climate expert”

  1. It is very clear that there will be substantial sea level rises in the comiing decades. We are likely to see more than the 40 cm currently set as the benchmark for 2050 by the NSW Government.

    In the Gosford Region, the Council has sent letters to all property owners with water frontage and with low lying property warning them that the 149 Certificates will carry a note about sea level rise. This is going to impact on sale of property that is vulnerable.

    There is however, the ability to enjoy such property for many decades into the future as sea level rise is a slow process. The current benchmarks of 40cm by 2050 and 91 cm by 2100 show how slow the rise will be over the initial few decades. Of course, the rise will accelerate over time and by the time it reaches 1m the rate will be of the order of 20mm per year. And it wont stop there.

    That is still a long way off though. We can continue to enjoy our beaches and water front land for a long time yet. If we don’t get silly and invest lots of money in new buildings on such land, we can naturally devalue such property gradually over long years.

    Andy Pittman is quite right to give his opinion on the impacts on properties. He knows only too well what the likely impacts are goiing to be and owes it to his community to warn of the dangers. He should not be penalised for this.


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