Flood Zone Foolishness

Politicians from disaster-prone states lead the fight against real disaster reforms.
Wang Chengyun/Xinhua/ZUMA

Wang Chengyun/Xinhua/ZUMA

The billion-dollar storm is the new normal. Eight of the 10 costliest hurricanes in U.S. history have occurred in the past decade, adjusting for inflation, at a staggering toll of more than $200 billion in losses. Sea level rise along the eastern seaboard is happening at the fastest rate in the world. Disaster experts have plenty of good ideas for ways to prepare for the unfolding crisis, but it’s hard to find legislators willing to think long-term. Welcome to disaster politics in the 21st century.

Lawmakers continually prepare for the previous disaster. Witness the overhaul of nuclear power regulation after Three Mile Island or overwhelming reforms to counterterrorism after Sept. 11, 2001. Similarly, it was only in the wake of Hurricane Katrina that lawmakers began to discuss serious reforms to the bankrupt National Flood Insurance Program, a government-backed system created in 1968 for homeowners living in flood-prone areas. It took until the summer of 2012 for Congress to pass the bipartisan Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act, a bill aimed at restoring the NFIP to solid financial health. Just a few months later Hurricane Sandy, with its tens of thousands of under-insured victims, made Biggert-Waters look like visionary legislation.

Read more at Climate Desk partner, Slate.

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