Warning: Real Estate Development in Flood Zones Is Surging in Some States

New Jersey Homes sit at the end of a bridge flooded by Hurricane Sandy.
New Jersey Homes sit at the end of a bridge flooded by Hurricane Sandy.
Mario Tama/Getty Images

Home buyers in search of a forever house should reconsider looking on the coast. According to a study from Climate Central and Zillow, new houses are continuing to pop up in places that are most vulnerable to rising sea levels, with construction in risk zones outpacing that in safer areas in some states.

New Jersey, a state that was hit hard by Hurricane Sandy in 2012, is the worst offender when it comes to building homes in low-lying flood zones. Between 2010 and 2016, 2982 new houses totaling $2.6 billion in real estate prices were built in risk zones in the state. Behind New Jersey, North Carolina, Florida, and Texas are the states with the most new houses vulnerable to rising ocean levels driven by climate change.

Even in a best case scenario, the future of these properties looks grim. The study finds that even if the world puts moderate restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions in line with the Paris Agreement, roughly 10,000 homes built after 2009 will be at risk of at least yearly flooding by 2050. The numbers are about three times higher by 2100 and five times higher if carbon emissions aren't reined in at all.

The data is even more sobering when houses built prior to this decade are taken into account. If pollution goes unchecked for the next 80 years, 2.5 million built before today, amounting to $1.33 trillion, will be at risk of at least one flood per year.

Seaside homes aren't the only places facing the rising threat of climate change. Many of the world's airports and UNESCO World Heritage sites are also at increased risk of flooding as sea levels rise.

To see how quickly real estate is being developed in high-risk areas in year state, check out the interactive map below.

[h/t IFL Science]

UK Burger King Restaurants Will Stop Giving Plastic Toys With Kids' Meals

Leon Neal/Getty Images
Leon Neal/Getty Images

Fast food companies don't have a reputation for being eco-friendly, but through small changes made in recent years, some of the biggest names in the industry are working to reduce their environmental impact. Just a few weeks after introducing the meat-free Impossible Whopper, Burger King announced a new policy for its United Kingdom locations. As CNN reports, UK restaurants will no long include plastic toys with kids' meals.

The change comes after two sisters from the UK started a petition on Change.org calling on McDonald's and Burger King to stop distributing plastic toys with kids' meals. Ella and and Caitlin McEwan, who were 9 and 7 respectively when the petition launched this summer, wrote, “children only play with the plastic toys they give us for a few minutes before they get thrown away and harm animals and pollute the sea." They went on to say: "It’s not enough to make recyclable plastic toys—big, rich companies shouldn’t be making toys out of plastic at all." Their online petition has received more than 530,000 signatures.

By cutting plastic from kids' meals, Burger King estimates it will avoid wasting 350 tons of single-use plastic a year. The chain has also installed containers in its UK stores for collecting old plastic toys from customers, so the material can be recycled to make playgrounds. The UK represents just a fraction of Burger King's market, but according to the company, non-biodegradable plastic toys will be phased out of all locations by 2025.

McDonald's has had a different response to the McEwan sister's petition. Instead of doing away with plastic toys completely, UK restaurants will give customers the option to swap toys for fruit with their Happy Meals later this year, and then allow them to opt for books instead for a period in early 2020. Meanwhile, in Canada and Germany, some McDonald's restaurants are experimenting with going totally plastic-free. The more sustainable restaurants feature paper straws, waffle cone condiment cups, and burger wrappers made from grass.

[h/t CNN]

Fall Foliage Is Running Late This Year

Free art director/iStock via Getty Images
Free art director/iStock via Getty Images

The August arrival of the pumpkin spice latte might have you feeling like fall is in full swing already, but plants aren’t quite so impressionable. According to Travel + Leisure, the best fall foliage could be coming a little later than usual this year.

Historically, the vibrant transformation starts to sweep through northern regions of the Rocky Mountains, Minnesota, and New England in mid-September, and reaches its peak by the end of the month. Other areas, including the Appalachians and Midwest states, don’t see the brightest autumn leaves until early or mid-October. The Weather Channel reports that this year, however, the forecast from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts unseasonably warm temperatures for the next two weeks, which could impede the color-changing process.

Warm temperatures aren’t necessarily bad for fall foliage, as long as they occur during the day and are offset by cool nights. Since meteorologists don’t expect the overnight temperatures to drop off yet, plants will likely continue producing enough chlorophyll to keep their leaves green in the coming days.

The good news is that this year’s fall foliage should only be about a week late, and meteorologist David Epstein thinks that when leaves do start to change color, we’re in for an especially beautiful treat. If the current weather forecast holds, he told Boston.com, we'll "see a longer season than last year, we’d see a more vibrant season than last year, and it would come on a little earlier than last year, which was so late.”

Though poor weather conditions like early snow, heavy rain, drought, or strong winds can cause leaves to fall prematurely, most trees right now are in a good position to deliver a brilliant display of color after a healthy, rain-filled summer.

Find out when you’ll experience peak fall foliage in your area with this interactive map.

[h/t Travel + Leisure]

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