Climate Central: How flood insurance could drive Americans from coasts

April 7, 2015

In a Climate Central article by John Upton the about increasing cost of flood insurance for coastal property owners, Jessica Grannis raises critical questions including how to balance vulnerability and affordability. 

As salty waters ride the fossil fueled escalator of sea-level rise into American streets and homes, rising flood risks may force coastal neighborhoods — if not entire cities — to be abandoned in the decades ahead, says the article.

“You can’t build a seawall along the entire Eastern Seaboard,” Jessica Grannis, adaptation program manager at the Georgetown Climate Center, said.

The challenges of shoreline retreat loom large as the latest round of hiccupping reforms to the National Flood Insurance Program take effect this month. ... But with more than 100 million Americans now living in coastal cities and counties, two climate change experts are urging more far-reaching reforms to the flood insurance program. In a new paper published by Environmental Law Reporter, they say the flood insurance program should be redesigned to actively push American communities away from vulnerable coastlines. ...

The new paper, written by Moore and NRDC water official Becky Hayat, lays out one vision for how Congress could re-imagine the flood insurance program in two years, when it’s next due to be reauthorized. ...

Georgetown Climate Center’s Grannis agreed that further flood insurance program reforms are needed, and that they could be designed to support shoreline retreat strategies. She questioned, however, whether low-income coastal property owners would pay for insurance if it meant losing their home after a flood anyway.

“If we’re raising rates and people can’t afford them, often they drop the insurance,” Grannis said. “That’s their primary line of defense; that’s where their nest egg is. We’re increasing people’s vulnerability by not dealing with the affordability question.”

Read the full story at Climate Central