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Rising sea levels of little concern to some SA coastal property valuers

The ethics of climate change, including the tendency of some South African property valuers to ignore the risk associated with rising sea levels, are in the spotlight at the Sixth International Conference in Ethics Education underway in Stellenbosch, Western Cape.

Several speakers at the conference, being hosted in South Africa for the first time, are highlighting some of the ethical dilemmas that climate change is posing, and what higher education institutions should be doing to fill the vacuum in climate change ethics education.

The conference, running from 3 to 5 October at the Spier Conference Centre, has the theme, “Long Walk to Ethics Education”. It is being presented under the auspices of the International Association for Education in Ethics, with the University of South Africa (Unisa) and the Tshwane University of Technology as the main conference partners.

Climate change comes into the picture on day two of the conference, Thursday, 4 October, with speakers exploring topics such as the effect of rising sea levels on residential property valuers’ valuation behaviour, and the importance of treating climate change ethics education as a significant topic in its own right.

Rising sea levels are a real risk

In a paper titled “Climate change: a property valuer’s dilemma”, University of Johannesburg researcher André Kruger argues that the changing climate has upset the traditional approach to valuing residential property.

“Although property valuers are required to consider the future, they rely on market evidence, mainly historic data, to determine the value of a specific property on the date of valuation, or the current valuation of future benefits,” says Kruger.

The changing climate has “introduced a risk, which is slowly but surely appearing”, says Kruger, who together with fellow UJ researcher Professor Jimmy Hendrick investigated the predicted effect and ensuing risk of a rise in sea levels on the valuation behaviour of property valuers in the residential coastal property market. They focused specifically on Sedgefield, a popular holiday and retirement location in the Southern Cape.

“The results of this research indicated that property valuers who practice on the southern Cape coast are not concerned about the future risk inherent in the rising sea level,” Kruger says, adding that valuers’ attitude to the rising sea level risk was confirmed in a statistical market analysis of repeat sales in Sedgefield in the past 20 years.

“Property valuers simply ignore the future risk contained in the rising sea level to residential coastal properties because they consider market evidence only,” he says. This is unethical, in the researchers’ eyes, because the valuers do not consider the negative effect of future sea level rise risk in today’s value.

Pay more attention to ethics education around climate change

Another view of the ethics of climate change comes from Professor Johan Hattingh of Stellenbosch University, in a presentation on what climate change ethics education should look like. Currently, the literature gives “hardly any attention” to the topic, which is a “dire situation” calling for a serious conversation to be initiated.

Referring to the Declaration of Ethical Principles in Relation to Climate Change that UNESCO adopted in November 2017, Hattingh points out that education is singled out as one of the important steps for implementing the Declaration. It specifically calls for curricula that build awareness and knowledge about humankind’s relation to the Earth’s climate system and ecosystems, as well as the promotion of formal, non-formal and informal education on climate change challenges and solutions, among others.

Also part of the conference’s environmental stream on day two is a UNESCO panel discussion on climate change ethics education, featuring panellists from South Africa and Zambia.

The Sixth International Conference in Ethics Education runs until Friday, 5 October, when the main focus will be on medical and health ethics education, with speakers from Kenya, the Caribbean, Malawi, Portugal, South Africa and the United States.

*By Clairwyn van der Merwe

Publish date: 2018-10-04 00:00:00.0