NAR CEO Dale Stinton and NAR President Steve Brown
Real estate represents a fifth of the U.S. economy, so there’s little that doesn’t impact what you do in some fashion, especially when it comes to environmental issues. Carbon levels in our air and water, how much rain we get in the arid West. what’s going to happen when hurricane season blows in again later this year. Even though these aren’t real estate issues per se, they impact the owning and transferring of real property, and that makes it NAR’s business.
That’s why President Steve Brown yesterday kicked off the association’s first environmental summit in Washington, and it’s safe to say that, if the 40 or so REALTORS® who participated came away with anything, it was a sense that all environmental issues are inter-connected and they all intersect with real estate. As Brown pointed out in his welcome message,”Under all is the land,” as the preamble to the NAR Code of Ethics states, and that makes it necessary for REALTORS® to look ahead because environmental issues are only going to grow in importance.
Former Homeland Security Chief Tom Ridge
NAR invited REALTOR® leaders from every part of the country to participate in the meeting. Among them were the heads of NAR committees whose jurisdiction touches in some manner on environmental issues. Former U.S. Homeland Security Chief Tom Ridge and former U.S. Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman were the keynote speakers and they shared with REALTORS® a two-pronged message: First, regardless of what one’s views are of climate change—whether it’s man-made or the result of a natural cycle–today’s climate patterns are not the patterns of yesterday, so it takes responsible leaders of goodwill to plan for and set aside resources to deal with catastrophic weather events, longer and more intense droughts, and the possibility of a rise in sea level, among other looming events.
“Regardless of what the science is showing, something’s happening,” said Ridge, who is also a former governor of Pennsylvania and served six terms Congress. “Water levels are rising, and that could be a challenge, because a third of Americans live along the coasts.”
The second part of the message was upbeat. It spoke to the resilience and innovation of the country but also the constructive engagement of groups like the REALTORS®, whom Glickman singled out for their consistent and responsible leadership on community issues.
“Our problems are reasonably solvable if people of goodwill–people like you–work through them,” said Glickman, also a former congressman. “REALTORS® have clout because you’re all key citizens in your communities. You are a very important part of the political system.”
REALTORS® at the summit heard from policy experts who are in the thick of today’s most critical environmental debates, including David Miller, a top official at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Ben Grumbles of the U.S. Water Alliance, and Megan Susman of EPA.
(L to R) Jeff Harris, Alliance to Save Energy; Chris Guith, U.S. Chamber of Commerce; Megan Susman, EPA; Henry Green, National Institute for Building Sciences; and Steven Weisbart, Insurance Information Institute.
Lori Weigel, a pollster with Public Opinion Strategies, walked REALTORS® through the mixed views the public has on the environment. On the one hand, about 60 percent of people say climate change must be dealt with, but only about 10 percent think it’s important enough to deal with now.
Ben Grumbles, U.S. Water Alliance
The public is also split on whether we’re getting a straight picture on climate change from scientists. About 48 percent think scientists are being objective in their assessment of climate change risk and causes, while 43 percent say they don’t trust scientists on the issue.
Distrust in a key institution like science is a disturbing trend, Ridge and Glickman both said, because any responsible response to big issues like the environment must start from a place of trust.
Today is the second day of the summit and its focus will be hands-on. President Brown has asked the participating REALTORS® to start sifting through the mountains of information to identify where the interests of real estate lie and to put the association on the right footing for protecting home owners, buyers, sellers, and the industry as lawmakers and policymakers take on environmental issues in the years ahead.
Learn more about the summit.
Latest issue of NAR’s On Common Ground magazine, which looks at environmental issues.
NAR’s policy agenda by issue areas.