At a recent hearing hosted by the Financial Services Subcommittee on National Security, International Development and Monetary Policy, environmental experts discussed the risks to the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) posed by climate change, saying the situation is likely to worsen in the coming years.
“Flood insurance is top of perils we have to face,” said Andy Karsner, who served as U.S. Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy during the George W. Bush administration, The Hill reports. “It is imperative for [insurance companies] to develop new tools of risk management because they are operating on very old model inputs and ancient legacy flood maps.”
Marshall Burke, assistant professor of earth system science at Stanford University, said at Wednesday’s hearing that the evidence from climate change research suggests southern states are most vulnerable to flooding.
“On the coast, what we know about tropical cyclones or hurricanes — we don’t have clear evidence that there will be more or less of them — but we know they will be more powerful and move more slowly. That will dramatically increase the likelihood of coastal flooding,” Burke said.
Lawmakers are taking some steps to update the NFIP. For example, Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith of Mississippi is proposing an update to the Program, which aims to address the multiple extensions the NFIP has undergone with a long-term extension plan.
In her letter to Senate Banking Committee Chairman Michael Crapo and Ranking Member Sherrod Brown, Hyde-Smith puts forth several options to address affordability issues among low and middle-income policy holders and debt issues within the NFIP.
“We’re trying to flip the script on mitigation projects, from being reactionary to being proactive. This is the first bill that provides a significant amount of real money for pre-disaster mitigation, which would give taxpayers a better return on investment. It is far more expensive to rebuild after a disaster than it is to do everything you can to protect yourself beforehand,” Hyde-Smith said in a statement.