Climate Change Risk Information Is Flooding In
The results are in. There are serious likely increases to flood risk all across the country, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) report examining the impact of Climate Change on the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).
Examining both riverine and coastal flooding, investigators projected a 40% or 45% average increase in the Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) by 2100. The Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic coasts are expected to get hit the hardest, with SFHA increases of over 100% in areas. (The numbers vary based on some assumptions made by the investigators.)
They attributed about 70% of the risk to Climate Change, the rest to population growth.
Impact on Homeowners: More people at risk for loss of life and property. Insurance policies will increase by approximately 80% by 2100, with increases of 100% in riverine policies and 60% in coastal policies. As this risk increases, rates will as well. For struggling families living in high risk zones, the expansion of the SFHA and the associated insurance requirements may be enough to force people to relocate. The financial burden both before and after a flood event will be significant.
Impact on Emergency Managers: It is a hard sell to convince residents to prepare for flooding, and more so when the risk is increasing and there is little precedent. Public awareness campaigns may be the best option. Hazard mitigation plans from communities will need to account for changing risk landscape and adapt their mitigation and response strategies accordingly. Resources will be a challenge for cash-strapped communities.
Climate change will have a large impact on flood risk to communities across the country. Emergency managers, planners, policy makers, should prepare now.
Leaders in these fields should consider both innovative and traditional mitigation measures to find the best fit for their community. Beyond insurance, FEMA, state, and local entities already started encouraging practices like elevating homes and using flood-resistant building techniques. Land conservation, development boundaries, and buy-back programs are also great options.
Now that Climate Change risk information is flooding in, we must apply this knowledge to best protect our homes and neighbors.