If you want to move to avoid the impacts of climate change, you may be out of luck: Everywhere on Earth will be affected. But some places are safer than others. A new tool from a startup called Augurisk is designed to help homebuyers and business owners calculate the climate risks of any address in the U.S.—along with multiple other risks, from nuclear power plant radiation to the current spread of COVID-19 and the ability of local hospitals to handle the pandemic.
Founder Mezian Mohamed started the company after searching for a house and realizing that this type of data isn’t easy to find. Most people applying for 30-year mortgages don’t actually know what might be likely to happen to a property in the future. “I wanted to know if my house was going to be exposed to coastal flooding or to earthquakes within the next 10 years,” he says.
“And at that time, I saw that there was simply no way to figure it out. When I started searching, I saw that most of the data was available, but in a format that wasn’t usable by normal people.” It’s free to search for a single property, whereas other tools designed for insurance companies are out of the financial reach of a homebuyer or small business owner.
The startup’s team of scientists designed the new platform to pull the best available data from multiple sources to calculate risk scores for several types of disasters, including wildfires, coastal flooding, hurricanes and other storm events, earthquakes, volcanoes, along with social risks like air pollution, radiation, and socioeconomic risk, which is calculated based on factors like income inequality, educational attainment, and the local poverty rate. The COVID-19 risk score looks at current local cases and fatalities and the number of available hospital beds.
While some other tools look at a few of these factors, Augurisk claims to be the first to consider all of them simultaneously. A report for each property breaks down the individual risks, and then assigns a “global” risk score that takes all of them into consideration. The riskiest place to live in the country: A census block near the water in St. Marks, Florida, a location with a score of 92 out of 100 for coastal flooding (100 is worst), a score of 85 out of 100 for hurricanes, and a score of 83 out of 100 for wildfires. (A series of census blocks along the coast of North Carolina is even riskier, but already unoccupied.)
Climate change is already significantly increasing the risk of disasters. 2019 was the fifth year in a row that 10 or more billion-dollar disasters happened in the U.S.—in 2019, that number was 14, including a major wildfire event on the West Coast, Hurricane Dorian and Tropical Storm Imelda, and eight severe storms and three major inland floods, adding up to $45 billion in total costs. Over the last 15 years, there were 156 billion-dollar disasters in the U.S., totaling $1.16 trillion in damages.
Some of those costs could have been avoided with earlier climate action, and climate action now could help shrink the cost of future disasters; Mohamed hopes that helping people understand their own personal risk will also help inspire more support for change. “People read about climate change every day,” he says. “But at some given point, they stopped paying attention. Once you show them how they are going to be affected by it—how their home, their family, might be essentially affected by it—once you give them that personal perspective, you can actually maybe influence them towards aiming at a better future, a more sustainable way of life.”