3/30/14

The Politics of Climate Change Denial

The Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act has been signed into law, artificially lowering post-Sandy flood insurance costs by reinstating grandfathered rates, capping premium increases, and uncoupling FEMA flood mapping.

The new law makes insurance rates more affordable for homeowners living in coastal flood zones, where climate change-driven sea level rise, extreme weather events and human-induced environmental damage make for high risk, high costs and little benefit.

Just two years ago, the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act bailed out the FEMA-run National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) by ending insurance subsidies for high-risk coastal properties.

By the time Hurricane Sandy hit in 2012, just months after Biggert-Waters took effect, the NFIP was broke, having spent all of FEMA's money. It took a $28 billion taxpayer-funded bailout to keep FEMA in business.

But politically-enabled property owners living in coastal flood zones protested the new real-world insurance rates.  And Congress, by enacting the Flood Insurance Affordability Act, bowed to short-term constituent demand rather than confront the long-term risks -- and costs -- of living in coastal flood zones.

Biggert-Waters had tried to accurately reflect those risks by ending subsidies for properties that had flooded multiple times, for beach houses, and for properties with grandfathered rates unrelated to actual flood risk.

Biggert-Waters was supposed to help NFIP contain out-of-control real estate development in flood plains. The Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act ended that hope.

Artificially lowering insurance rates for people living in the crosshairs of climate change is fiscal lunacy.  Sandy cost more than $68 billion, and there's more like her coming.

Wonks call the congressional rollback of Biggert-Waters a public policy setback that ignores climate change and over-corrects for legitimate concerns about making flood insurance affordable.

The article from Think Progress.

Joyous Republican politicians in Staten Island and in Louisiana congratulate Michael Grimm on the bill's passage. 

More from Forbes.

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