Why Portugal? Series (2 of 4): Climate Disruption

Updated: Aug 22, 2019

Since making the decision to emigrate to Portugal, there has been one resounding question from friends, family and even strangers we meet at various events around town. Why Portugal?

Another of the thoughts we considered was the impact of climate disruption upon living standards, and how that might impact our quality of life in the longer term.

The two main issues we considered were: 1) the possibility of sea level rise, and 2) the warning that Portugal may suffer a water crisis by 2040.

First, we searched visual representations of sea level rise across the planet, and the effects to Porto were less limited than those of other cities (e.g. Miami). The likelihood of flooding in Porto isn’t very high, as it sits on a series of hills with varying elevations. In fact, Porto is not considered a major flood risk area in Portugal.

The most likely area of possible flooding (due to either excessive rainfall or a sea level rise of 1-2 meters) is the riverfront. Fortunately, the majority of transportation lines to and from the city are not dependent upon this area, so even if there is a significant sea level rise, only a portion of the city will be affected. Obviously, the quality of water lines, sewage systems and elevation of where one purchases are important in determining the effect of flooding impact on purchased property. For our part, when we considered where to purchase in Porto, we looked for a minimum elevation of 86m above sea level!!

Second, it is of note that renewable freshwater resources for the entirety of Portugal fall into the OECD’s middle-performing tier, and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has written that Portugal: 1) lacks proper water use efficiency; 2) is overly dependent upon external water sources (particularly Spain, where a number of Portugal’s major rivers originate); and, 3) experiences extreme internal regional differences (North vs. South) in terms of water scarcity.

Water supply, water usage and water safety are important issues here in Portugal (even if people aren’t necessarily thinking about it). It is for this reason that we strongly considered Northern Portugal over the Southern regions. It rains here more frequently and is less susceptible to drought. Although flooding can be an issue, that can be mitigated through proper planning and investment in infrastructure.

A final, and more unspoken, issue of climate disruption in Portugal is related to migration. Currently, Portugal’s migration policy is open, especially since Portuguese leadership is using migration to offset the negative effects of a falling population. Portugal boasts a liberal refugee acceptance policy, with excellent benefits. Obviously, this would not be a major issue for Golden Visa investors at present, but if climate disruption migrants pour into Portugal, there will likely be a series of challenges the immigration system may encounter. That book is not yet written, but for now things look reasonable for migrants to Portugal of all kinds.

So we are hedging our bets that Northern Portugal will sustain some of the issues that climate disruption may throw at it. That said, the current political climate is one that is attempting to follow EU protocols for water and energy conservation, and Portugal remains a signatory to the Paris Agreement. So fingers crossed that the powers-that-be make significant efforts toward proper preparation for the coming change. We thought a number of the conditions on the ground were reasonable and sustainable enough to facilitate our investment. Here’s hoping we’re proven right!!

by @dahungryhubs

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