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Tuesday, July 23, 2024

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The Wrap: Climate Change and Fine Food; Heat; Home Prices Up 10.4%

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By Herald Staff

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Climate Change and Fine Food

That eye-opening cup of morning coffee, the pleasure of high-quality chocolate, the perfectly paired glass of Bordeaux with your special meal, the hint of pepper in the extra-virgin olive oil drizzled over a dish just before serving. All of these finer pleasures are seeing record rises in price due to climate change.

Our global economy is passing along price increases as areas of the world that dominate in providing certain food delicacies experience record heat, prolonged droughts or extended precipitation.

The price of olive oil has doubled in just two years. Global wine production is at its lowest level in 60 years. Coffee prices are soaring, as some world producers are hoarding beans as they watch prices climb. Cocoa farmers have been hit hard by weather, forcing producers of chocolate into crisis.

The monsoons are wetter, the summers are hotter, droughts are longer, rains are often more destructive than helpful. The end result is rising prices for some of life’s culinary pleasures.

We are not talking small changes. The European Union reports two years with a 26% drop in olive oil production in some major olive-growing countries, like Spain, Italy and Greece. In 2024 the prediction is for a decline of 39%.

In the West African cocoa belt, weather and pests and crop diseases that have come in the wake of climate change have reduced crop yields by up to 50%. The crisis is driving producers even deeper into forest areas, creating a different climate-related problem.

We can debate the causes of climate change, but the record heat is real, the increased rainfall is real, and the impact on agricultural production is real. In many cases producers are testing more northern locations for suitability.

In the not-that-distant future we may find ourselves discussing the quality of Swedish wine vintages.

Heat

A major story this past week has been the heat. Expanding heat waves have parked over the Midwest and parts of the Northeast. The summer solstice brought with it record-high temperatures. Anyone hoping the June heat waves are an aberration is likely to be disappointed, according to the July forecast issued by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

NOAA’s climate prediction center shows the Northeast with especially high odds for a scorching July. The development of a La Nina in the Pacific will aid in stalling high-pressure systems, turning them into stationary heat domes. Add to this the predictions of a very active Atlantic hurricane season, and the potential dangers of this summer’s weather multiply.

As many as 90 million Americans are in areas under heat alerts as this is written. New Jersey is under an excessive heat warning. As Garden State temperatures rise, the two bodies of water that nearly surround Cape May County continue to provide some relief, making the Shore an attractive place to be. According to state officials, the threat of extreme heat exists here as well. New Jersey has established a website, Heat Hub NJ, with information on recognizing the symptoms of heat-related illness and a list of resources available to residents.

Preparing for the predicted rise in heat-related illnesses, the federal Centers for Disease Control has established a tracker of emergency room visits for heat-related conditions in each of the Department of Health and Human Services’ 10 regions. New Jersey is in region 2. On June 21, region 2 was in fourth place, with 365 hospital visits. Heat-related hospital visits spiked this week in parts of New England.

Home Prices

The New York Federal Reserve just released April figures for year-over-year home prices in New York and New Jersey. For the eighth month in a row, Cape May County year-over-year prices increased by double digits, with 10.4% growth in April 2024 prices over April 2023. The prices remain strong, but not on a par with the increases seen in 2022, when 20% year-over-year growth in prices was common.

Experts predict that home prices in the Garden State will continue to rise in 2024, but at a more moderate pace. The median sale price in various categories of homes continues to increase, but more marginally than in the past few years. A big culprit is tight inventory, with reports showing New Jersey’s home scarcity worse than what exists in the national market.

Predictions for more moderate growth in home prices rest on the limited supply and the state’s strong demographic profile with millennials and Gen Zers, who are in or entering prime home-ownership age groups.

Data from the Otteau Group shows home sales are down in the under $400,000 price range, where interest rates have an impact on typical buyers. They are up by almost 30% in 2024 for homes in the $2.5 million or greater price range, where interest rates have less of a chilling effect on well-heeled buyers.

Predictions for Cape May County are for moderating of the pace of price increases, a more balanced market than the frenzied market of the last couple of years.

According to state data, the aggregate assessed value of real estate in the county sits at roughly $53 billion. The heated market following the pandemic has left the aggregate true value of that real estate at more than $87 billion.

Happenings

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has announced a plan to repurpose dredge sediments from the Intracoastal Waterway to fortify and uplift low marsh areas at Scotch Bonnet Island (next to the Wetlands Institute).

The Avalon council accepted $4,690 in funds from a Stone Harbor developer for use to further public access to waterways. The funds are a state-approved alternative to providing public access on the site of a two-home subdivision in Stone Harbor.

A book brigade helped move books from Cape May City’s old library to the new branch of the county library system at the historic Franklin Street School. The once segregated school for Black children has been renovated as a city library and community center.

A Cape May resident with chronic kidney failure had his life changed when a Nebraska woman donated a kidney through Donor Outreach for Veterans. The 73-year-old kidney recipient calls the woman his angel.

Lower Township businessman Joseph Salerno was declared the winner in the Democratic primary that decided who faces off against 2nd District incumbent Rep. Jeff Van Drew. The 2nd District sprawls over all or parts of six South Jersey counties. This year’s race will be between two residents of Cape May County.

Cape May City businessman Curtis Bashaw hopes to become the first Republican senator from New Jersey since the 1970s. Bashaw will run against Democratic Rep. Andy Kim in the contest for the seat currently held by Sen. Robert Menendez. Menendez, facing corruption charges, says he will run as an independent.

While Memorial Day is often referred to as the unofficial start to summer, it is the official start of the nesting season for the area’s diamondback terrapins. Signs along roads such as Stone Harbor Boulevard, Ocean Drive, Avalon Boulevard and other streets bordering the area’s marshes warn motorists of terrapin crossings and to slow down.

Wildwood Crest police arrested a man who was allegedly passed out in a vehicle with the motor running and found him to be impaired and in possession of various weapons.

A 43-year-old Philadelphia woman was arrested at a Wildwood Crest motel, where she attacked a 10-year-old child in the motel pool and later bit a police officer.

Ocean City adopted a bond ordinance that includes $30 million for the renovation and reconstruction of the 100-year-old Public Safety Building.

Parking tickets are down in Stone Harbor compared with the huge increase in violations last year as part of the rough introduction of the ParkMobile app. They are still well ahead of the pre-ParkMobile year of 2022.

The Wildwood Crest Borough Commission has approved a fifth change order for renovation work on the beach patrol headquarters. The five change orders have added $170,089 to the cost of the project.

Twenty-two-year-old Elizabeth Mendel, of Court House, has become the third young woman from Cape May County to be crowned Miss New Jersey. Mendel will take the year to advocate for eating disorder awareness through her service initiative.

Spout Off of the Week

Avalon – To EVERYONE, but especially to the female tourist that tried to help a turtle crossing the road Thursday on Ocean Drive in the vicinity of 29th Street, you pick the turtle up on the double yellow line then carried her back to the side of the road that she started from, that is WRONG and inhumane, you reduced the chance of her and her offspring surviving because she WILL cross Ocean Drive again to accomplish her life’s goal. Please, Please, Please if you want to care and help wildlife, again, PLEASE learn first, it’s real easy down here just lod onto the Wetlands or any number of websites

Read more spouts at spoutoff.capemaycountyherald.com. 

Spout Off

Wildwood – Let's send medic max off in style with a big dutch hoffman race win !!

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Green Creek – Trump wants unity & a softer message. Doesn’t call immigrants and us Dems “vermin.”Now calls us “subhuman.”

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North Cape May – Re: The Avalon comment defending Harris and stating that she will give Trump a run for the money in a debate. Hmm. How is that southern border working out for you? Yes, that's what I thought….

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