Georgetown Climate Center Offers Guidance to Congress on Rebuilding Smarter in an Era of Climate Change

September 13, 2017

The Georgetown Climate Center's Jessica Grannis provided testimony to Congress this week, encouraging policymakers to help communities proactively prepare for climate changes and rebuild smarter with future climate change impacts in mind. She testified before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on Sept. 13, 2017. 

In her remarks, she emphasized that it is essential to talk about resilience now in the aftermath of hurricanes Harvey and Irma, as Congress makes billion-dollar decisions about how to fund long-term recovery.

"A fiscally-responsible approach does not put communities back in harm's way," Grannis said. "Instead Congress should require that federal investments account for anticipated future conditions and should provide incentives to encourage communities to take proactive steps to reduce their own risks."



Actions Congress should consider:

  • Reform and modernize federal disaster recovery programs. Rebuilding to replace exactly what was damaged or destroyed is both misguided and irresponsible.
    • Congress can require recipients of disaster recovery funds to consider future climate change when reconstructing infrastructure with disaster recovery funds. Reinstating the Federal Flood Risk Management Standards would be good start.
    • Congress should fund programs that provide the basic science and technical assistance that help state and local governments understand their risks and design structures to be more resilient. One of these programs is FEMA’s floodplain mapping program.
    • Congress can simplify and harmonize administrative requirements for deploying disaster recovery funding to enable state and local grantees to more easily combine funding streams and to reduce red tape for both grantees and administering agencies.
  • Fund and encourage communities to proactively implement measures to reduce risks by funding FEMA’s pre-disaster mitigation program, for example. More help is also need for communities preparing for other impacts like extreme heat, droughts, and wildfires. Congress could also consider a FEMA proposal to create a disaster deductible,See footnote 1 so that states and communities have a stake in preparedness and have incentives for reducing flood losses (through building codes and better land-use practices).
  • Increase investment in our infrastructure systems. Our infrastructure received a D+ grade from the American Society of Civil Engineers, and it is estimated that $1.1 trillion is needed to bring our infrastructure up to a state of good repair.See footnote 2 Congress could create and fund infrastructure banks to enable private sector investment in upgrading and enhancing the resilience of U.S. infrastructure systems.