Sandbags © David Y. Lee
Speak Up for Flood Insurance Reform
Supporting Flood Insurance Reform
During the first decade of this century, federal funding spent on flood damages has increased to an annual average of over $10 billion1, a 2.5-fold increase from the 1950s. Results from scientific studies indicate that a changing climate has exacerbated extreme weather events, including flooding and coastal storms. Under any plausible scenario, costs associated with extreme weather events will rise. Without significant reform, the NFIP will not be sustainable and American taxpayers will continue to be asked to bailout the program and subsidize public and private development in flood risk areas.
Much of the program’s debt is due to flood insurance premium rates being charged that do not reflect the true risk to structures in flood zones, lack of public awareness about the risk of living in flood hazard areas, and the low emphasis placed on implementing mitigation measures that would greatly reduce the cost of flood damage.
When left in place, coastal marshes, sand dunes and inland wetlands can serve important flood- and storm-control purposes. Under current policy, however, a dangerous loop is in play: development in coastal zones and in freshwater floodplains puts people and property at risk, and it simultaneously facilitates the destruction and degradation of the natural systems that provide a natural defense to people and properties. The current policy also subsidizes redevelopment in risk zones, not properly incentivizing natural restoration.
Recent studies show that one of the most cost-effective solutions to protect people from the impacts of climate change will be to preserve, enhance and restore the natural systems that deliver critical protection from sea level rise, storm surge and coastal and inland flooding. One study found that for every dollar spent on flood mitigation five dollars are saved2. In addition to flood control, ecosystems provide many services that support and protect humans and nature such as filtering pollutants, flood and erosion protection, production of fish and shellfish.
Instead of advancing opportunities to conserve or restore the function of natural systems that benefit both people and nature, the NFIP often inadvertently advances a scenario where additional development increases risk to individuals and communities while also eroding the value of natural systems and the benefits they provide.
Under a predicted increasingly destabilized climate, the magnitude of the issue grows considerably when factoring in impacts such as rising sea levels and more frequent intense storms and precipitation patterns. Unfortunately, “hard” solutions to mitigate flooding, such as seawalls and levees, are default strategies—thus exacerbating the degradation to natural systems.
A diverse group of people from across the political spectrum agree that changes are needed to the NFIP. The Nature Conservancy is a member of the SmarterSafer Coalition along with natural partners such as such as American Rivers and the National Wildlife Federation, but also alongside free-market think tanks such as the Competitive Enterprise Institute and Taxpayers for Common Sense as well as insurance interests like Swiss Re.
1Adjusted to 1999 dollars
I know that investing in conservation is the only way we can help keep America beautiful, strong, prosperous and healthy. I am proud to join a community of people who speak up for nature to help save the places we love.