An interview with Albert Slap, Coastal Risk Consulting
As part of its series “The Business of Climate Change,” which highlights the climate views of business men and women throughout the state, The Invading Sea spoke with Albert Slap, president of Coastal Risk Consulting, a company that offers a combination of tech and reporting services meant to help clients better understand and plan for climate-related issues.
Here are some highlights from the interview.
You’re in the Palm Beach County area. What are some of the things that you’ve seen there with climate change?
At least in the next 30 to 40 years, you can’t make doom-and-gloom predictions for large areas. You really have to drill down into a more granular look at properties, roadways, communities, local governments, and counties.
Do you have any examples of where Florida is doing things right when it comes to climate change and how they meet those particular challenges?
The Department of Environmental Protection has a coastal vulnerability grant program for local governments and they give out about $2 million a year. These grants provide funding for local governments to do studies of what’s coming at them now and in the future so that they can better prepare for it. I think that’s one really outstanding program for the state of Florida. And I think that that type of funding and those types of programs will only increase.
How did you come up with the idea for Coastal Risk Consulting?
I retired after 40 years of practicing environmental trial law, but I wasn’t done. I realized there was a technology play here to create in the cloud a system, a technology, that would do fast, accurate, and affordable risk assessments. And we started in the coastal area, but now we do inland, all over the United States.
We do work for NOAA, the National Weather Service, on their buildings, we do some of the largest real estate investment trusts, we do banks for underwriting their loans. It started because I realized, along with some of my experts, that this was a need that was not being filled.
What kind of modeling sources are you using when you’re developing the reports? Where does the data come from?
We use a combination of proprietary data that we have licensed from others, modeling that we have developed ourselves internally, and open-source data.
What should homeowners do to make their properties more resilient to climate change?
Homebuyers need to start their due diligence. They can get their report anytime night or day on the website. Even if they’re not in a FEMA flood zone, they need flood insurance.
If there are issues that need to be addressed with the house, we can point them in the right direction, whether it’s doorway barriers or removable barriers over the garage or a simple thing like a $150 backflow preventer that the plumber can put in most homes in the low-lying areas of Miami Beach and areas like that. There are simple things like raising the HVAC compressor on a platform. That’s easy stuff to do. But is it being done? Not as much as it should.
If you want to look out to 2100, in South Florida in particular, it’s not a pretty picture. What’s the goal? To keep people safe and in their homes, with public utilities and roadways that work for as long as possible to give us as much chance to get a handle on the reduction of CO2 and cool down the climate. We can only hold the line if all the stakeholders are working together. We’re all in the same leaky boat.
What are smaller cities and counties doing from the planning side when it comes to resiliency?
Unless they’re funded by the state and they’ve gotten their grant applications in and have gotten in line and gotten money for planning, they’re probably not doing much because it is expensive. And that’s why these reports really are important to local governments, because without them, they are like having one arm tied behind their back in the hunt for federal funding, state funding, county funding, that sort of thing.
What do you think the Florida Legislature should be doing to help businesses adjust to climate challenges? Are there things lawmakers are doing now?
The Florida Legislature passed a law this year that is going to require buildings that are built with state funds in these coastal areas that are affected by sea-level rise to do a study before they’re going to be approved to use state funding. So obviously, that was big and I thought really that that is a model that could also be used with commercial buildings.
Kevin Mims, a Florida-based freelance journalist, is the producer of “The Business of Climate Change.” He conducted this interview with Mr. Slap.
“The Invading Sea” is the opinion arm of the Florida Climate Reporting Network, a collaborative of news organizations across the state.