It was once said of a Philadelphia Phillies outfielder known for his defensive prowess: “Two-thirds of the earth is covered in water, the other third by Garry Maddox. At 72, Maddox can’t cover that much ground anymore. But then there is less to cover. Every day, the underwater areas seem to expand.
Last week, a storm known as the Bomb Cyclone hit the Pacific Northwest from central California to British Columbia, dumping record-breaking precipitation in places and two feet of snow on the mountains of the Sierra Nevada. Across the continent, torrential rains inundated New York and New Jersey, less than two months after Hurricane Ida turned the New York subway into an underground river. So far this year, flooding has left 142 people dead in the United States.
All that water destroys property as well – an average of $ 15 billion each year. But that number is expected to double over the next 30 years. Climate change is one of the main reasons.
“While it is difficult to make a direct link between an individual extreme event and climate change, it is clear that we must be prepared to deal with more intense and frequent extreme hydrometeorological events due to climate change”, a said Pascal Peduzzi, an official of the United Nations Environment Program. Flooding will happen in areas that have not experienced flooding in the past – and will worsen in areas that have experienced flooding.
Taxpayers are responsible for a large part of the resulting property losses. Anyone with a federally guaranteed mortgage must purchase and maintain federal insurance on properties located in flood plains. But the flood insurance program collects far less from homeowners than it pays. By keeping rates low, he encouraged people to build homes and businesses that could be overwhelmed.
In the near future, we will not be able to prevent the more frequent extreme weather events triggered by global warming. But there is something we can do to discourage construction in areas prone to flooding. Fortunately, the Biden administration is starting to do so.
On October 1, the Federal Emergency Management Agency began to consider climate change in its risk assessments. Next year, most of the 5 million policyholders will face a higher premium, which will then increase by 18% each year for the next two decades. In parts of Florida, according to the New York Times, “the cost of flood insurance will eventually increase tenfold.”
The change, which had been delayed by the Trump administration, represents major reform. The change will reduce damage from future storms while putting the flood insurance program on a healthier financial footing.
It should also deter developers and individuals from erecting structures in places better suited to the habitat of turtles and pelicans than humans. Most of the affected areas are along the coasts, but some are near inland rivers that overflow more often than before.
The program, as administered so far, has other perverse attributes. One is to skew the benefits disproportionately in favor of high-income communities. Another is usually to undercharge people with expensive homes while overcharging those with more modest homes.
A seaside mansion gets off easily, while a modest bungalow further inland does not. The new system makes it possible to correct these inequalities: 23% of policyholders will see their rates drop.
At a time of rising oceans and intensifying storms, federal flood insurance has also fueled population growth in the most threatened coastal areas.
The program not only encouraged people to build houses in high risk areas; he encouraged them to rebuild after nature had done its worst. Some 30,000 homes covered by the program have been repeatedly destroyed. Insurance must promote prudence by penalizing madness. This version does exactly the opposite.
But the Biden reforms are not suitable for politicians whose voters will face higher premiums. Senator Charles Schumer, DN.Y., is a Liberal, and Senator John Kennedy, R-La., Is a Conservative, but both have signed a letter to FEMA challenging the changes. Senators from New Jersey, Florida and Mississippi joined them in this bipartisan opposition. Guess what these states have in common.
Insurance exists so that people can protect themselves against hazards which are not certain but which are foreseeable. Far be it from me to blame those who own big boats. But they can buy their own life jackets.