By Chris Chopik

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) chose the perfect location for its recent invitation-only Sustainability Summit 2019 – New Orleans. Presentations included powerful insights and calls to action from The Union of Concerned Scientists, flood and hazard experts from regional and local government and leading real estate practitioners from across the continent.



The two-day working session aimed to provide leadership strategies on topics of sustainability that benefit Realtor associations and communities. The vision for the committee was clear: Realtors thrive in a culture of sustainability that promotes viability, resilience, adaptability and resource efficiency. The goal: to provide NAR with a recommendation for addressing climate change, avoiding potential liability related to emerging risk and representation, and to leverage the Realtor/homeowner relationship to meet oncoming challenges.

Craig Foley, chief sustainability officer at LAER Realty Partners and chair, NAR Sustainability Advisory Group opened with a review of NAR foundational ethics and policy. Foundational within the 1970 charter update that Foley references is a commitment to protecting the environment. The quote read like a Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring and clearly outlines an organizational mandate at NAR to be good stewards of the land.

Erika Spanger-Siegfried from the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) lead with an introduction to two key studies: When Sea Rise Hits Home and Killer Heat in the United States. Her presentation showed clear scientific arguments for the impact to property from changing weather and sea-rise. She touched on changing conditions for insurability and loss of migrating population as potential for erosion of the tax base. Most alarming was her discussion of “off the chart” heat and humidity levels that are emerging. Not only is it hotter, but we don’t even have the means to measure some of the emerging heat and its impact on people.

UCS insights about heat are reflected in the Urban Land Institute’s recent release of Scorched, which offer a few hopeful perspectives. “Widespread adoption of temperature reduction strategies (mitigation) could potentially reduce or even offset the urban warming trends currently occurring in cities,” it says. These strategies include integrated water retention and management strategies to reduce flood and drought impacts, and frequently include growing green infrastructure including native species trees, green roofs and bioswales. For locations like Toronto, this focusses the importance of strong investment in municipal and site level resilience as a means of protecting property owners from risk.

Whether valuing a property with high performance and resilient features, or those in a walkable neighbourhood with treelined streets, the discussion at the summit made a clear connection to the role of the Realtor in communicating the value of energy efficiency and climate risk.

“You can open up the newspaper every day and see an alarming trend,” said Vince Malta, president elect of NAR. “It’s important we are at the table in meeting the challenges of the changing climate in the coming years.”

In an interview, Malta strongly underscored that the summit was a forum to create an action plan for the NAR leadership team. Malta, the CEO and broker at Malta & Co. in San Francisco said, “As an individual I would want to know how this is going to affect my children and my community, and what is expected of me. Right now, those answers are not really there.”

Lindene E. Patton, a lawyer and partner at Earth and Water Law in Washington, D.C. suggested that a real estate climate-risk index could be referenced to the Actuaries Climate Index as a means of connecting meaningful homeowner-relatable information with insurability connected actuarial sciences. Patton, who is a globally recognized expert in risk and resilience and related economic impacts, directed participants to converge on strong simple language that would allow NAR leadership to act toward a more positive 2030.

In the end, after two days of inspiring talks and deliberate discussion, a recommendation was made to NAR leadership to create a 2030 climate change action plan. The association has more than one million members across the United States. One delegate, Kerri Hartnett, principal broker at Hartnett Homes in Portland Ore., offered an aspirational idea: “Imagine the power that every Realtor in America can have by helping property owners in every market to bring sustainability and resilience to their communities.”

NAR is a powerful change-making organization that could accelerate the agility of markets to respond to emerging climate-risk, while preserving the wealth of Americans in every community.

5 COMMENTS

  1. Climate change is nothing you can change – there have been fires, floods, earthquakes and disasters from the beginning of time. We humans and our tax money are not going to change the earth & climate one bit. As a realtor, describe the risks – if people want to buy near a forest, buy at their own risk, if they buy on the ocean – guess what they are going to get wind, waves & sea water on their doorstep perhaps. How about all the people living in Richmond – we all know, one day there will be an earthquake & that has NOTHING to do with climate change! Living in fear of what may happen is not living – if you love the forest – live there and if you love water front live there!

  2. David Phillips, Senior Climatologist for Environment Canada, says if every smokestack across the globe was plugged today, if every car, truck, bus etc. was removed from existence today, if every cow was removed from the face of the earth today, if every aircraft was removed from the skies today, etc., nothing would change vis a vis the accumulated C.O.2 in the atmosphere for one hundred years, because, the resident life of C.O.2 is one hundred years. (Google David Phillips on climate change) So, we ain’t doin’ one damn thing to slow so-called global warming or actual climate change. It’s all politics. Cyclical sunbursts of heat-producing radiation and solar storms don’t pay heed to earthly politics. The earth’s cyclical wobbling on its axis, naturally creating hot times and cool times, doesn’t pay any attention to politics.

    The climate is always changing, either slowly, or in spurts. One mega-explosion of a super volcano does more to inject climate-changing crap into the atmosphere than anything we humans are currently producing over years and decades. Then there are all of the numerous smaller volcanic eruptions that occur every damn week, or day, somewhere on the globe. It’s all part of the natural process, and we humans are part of the natural process. Climate change is what it is, and will remain so. What we ‘will’ do, however, is adapt to whatever changes occur, as humans have done for ever. Some will benefit from climate change; some will not. But the species will go on. Therefore, don’t be a dope and buy on a flood plain. Don’t be a dope and buy next to a tinder-dry forest. Don’t be a dope and buy on a mountain slope. Don’t be a dope and buy where there is no water availability other than via man-made canals, etc., etc.

    By the way, what happened to the ice age the leftist scientists said we were supposed to experience during the 1970’s? There was even a movie made about New York City becoming a giant Popscicle. Duh!

    BTW X 2: It was hotter during the late 1800’s than now. It was hotter and dryer during the 1930’s than now. Not all scientists agree with the current sky-is-falling left-wing craze sweeping the politically motivated crowd these days.

    We humans are an integral part of the earth; we are its product. The earth will always be the earth, spinning merrily away, whether it be hot, cold, dry, wet, full of life, not-so-full of life (depending upon geographical locations), and whether or not humans occupy spaces here and there on its face. Who the hell cares whether there are ten billion, or one billion of us, taking up space. We only really care about our family members and our friends…while we are still sentient.

    Life goes on. Enjoy it while you have it ‘to’ enjoy. Remember, the earth doesn’t give a damn about politics. Some day dumb-ass humans may be gone as a species, but the earth will go on…a new species will evolve, and like Sonny and Cher said: “And the beat goes on…”

    The NAR—and all real estate organizations—should pay more attention to the ethics equation, and get rid of the scumbag pollution within its rank and file, because the stench produced by those scumbags is indeed rank. Do something worthwhile in a segment of reality where you actually have some power, NAR et al, and forget about trying to indoctrinate us on something you have absolutely no power over at all…the climate.

  3. Terrible article that doesn’t represent the silent majority that are sick of hearing from these crazy religious zealots. Don’t deny you are a religious zealot it will only prove my point more…see how that argument cuts both ways!
    As for your responsibility in BC living near the oceans and forests. You don’t need to educate the people on “global warming”, because the people who buy property on the ocean are one of two people: A) they don’t believe in your religion or B) they are hypocritical, which represents about 75-85% of the Zealots. It reminds me of religion class “DO AS I SAY NOT AS I DO”.

  4. Hey Chris,

    Great Article. thank you for bringing up these important issues. I have been wondering lately what the responsibility of a REALTOR® is when representing the sale of a property that is at risk due to climate change. I live in BC near the ocean and the forests of Vancouver Island. Both waterfront properties and properties near forests that are at risk of forest fire will likely experience many threatening impacts from climate change.

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