Union of Concerned Scientists call for flood insurance reform
The Union of Concerned Scientists, a nonprofit with more than 400,000 citizen and scientist members, is calling for flood insurance reform. Their recent public report, Overwhelming Risk: Rethinking Flood Insurance in a World of Rising Seas, argues that reforms currently in front of the US congress (for October 1) would help coastal homeowners better assess their risks so that they can take steps to reduce them, as well as help reduce the costs to taxpayers from large insurance payouts and disaster relief in the wake of major storms. The report maintains:
Several key factors challenge National Flood Insurance Program’s success—indeed its survival—as a solvent risk management system: low rates of insurance purchase, artificially low premiums that do not reflect true risk, loopholes in the program that allow some properties to keep their rates low through grandfathering provisions, repeated payouts for losses to the same high-risk properties, and the failure to account for future sea level rise in flood risk maps that help determine insurance rates.
[…] Although current insurance rates in most coastal areas do not adequately reflect true risk, a rapid rise in insurance premiums could hit low-income or fixed-income property owners hardest. Instituting a program
of vouchers or rebates can help these property owners cope with higher rates, while ensuring that they have adequate coverage against natural disasters.
The relationship of flood insurance to the livability of New York and affordable housing more generally has been a hot topic post-Sandy. Regardless of your position on the topic, the reforms to the Flood Insurance Program, now the main provider of flood insurance in the US as smaller private companies are folding the wake of frequent extreme weather, is likely to affect a wide swath of the US population.
The Union of Concerned Scientists urges people to learn about the proposed changes to the Program, write a letter to the editor for their local papers, and participate in these wider debates that will become crucial as climate change continues to produce more frequent and more extreme weather events.