September 2011

Volume 20, Number 9

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Climate Change Could Double Need for Flood Insurance

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By Evan Dick


The Federal Emergency Management Agency is concerned that flooding, like this event following Hurricane Irene in Halifax, VT, will threaten much larger geographic areas as a result of extreme weather caused by climate change. This change could both endanger flood zone inhabitants and strain the already overburdened National Flood Insurance Program.

Photo: Tristan Roberts

A long-delayed Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) report warns that rising sea levels and extreme weather caused by climate change may cause a 40%–45% increase within the next 90 years of U.S. land area vulnerable to flooding.

Expanding floodplains will endanger millions of existing properties not formerly vulnerable to flooding and increase pressure on FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which already holds 5.6 million policies protecting property worth $1.2 trillion.

The report, which is to be released later in 2011 but has already received coverage in the New York Times, warns that flood insurance premiums could rise by as much as 70% by 2100 and that further new development in coastal cities is extremely risky.

Insurance companies have long understood that rising population in flood-prone areas increases the cost of damage caused by floods. According to this report, insurers will now have to contend with both continued population increases in floodplains and the expansion of floodplains to encompass greater populations.

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August 30, 2011