Growing Returns

Selected tag(s): flood risk

Hurricane season is here again. And finally, leaders are addressing multiple flood risks.

Every year hurricanes present a variety of threats to communities along the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts. And these risks aren’t just from storm surge.

Harvey and Ida showed us the effect of heavy rainfall, while Hurricane Florence demonstrated how rivers can overflow into homes and businesses. Meanwhile, climate change is impacting sea level rise, which increases sunny day flooding and the trauma caused from storm events.

Flooding doesn’t just impact coastlines, it impacts entire communities both inland and by the water. It hinders parents’ ability to bring their children to school and it limits patients’ access to vital healthcare and medical services. Not to mention, flooding has inequitable impacts on the wealth, health and wellbeing of millions of families.

flooding from hurricane

As we enter into the 2023 hurricane season, we’re reminded of the urgent need to implement natural disaster mitigation strategies that address comprehensive flood and storm risks. Acting before the next storm strikes means protecting both communities and ecosystems, in addition to saving nearly six times the cost spent on disaster recovery.

The good news? Over the past year, leaders have responded to our call to act – a call that was supported by more than a hundred organizations around the country. Here are two major ways their efforts can prepare us for the next hurricane: Read More »

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Climate-driven floods could displace millions of Americans. Local buyout programs could help them relocate.

By Kelly Varian, Master of Public Affairs Student at UC Berkeley

Flooding is the most frequent and costly natural disaster in the United States, causing over $30 billion in damage annually, with disproportionate effects on low-income communities. With climate change exacerbating flood risk and population growth continuing in high-risk areas, over 40 million Americans living along rivers and inland floodplains, along with 13 million more on the coasts, could see their homes inundated with water by the end of the century. 

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Prioritizing communities and nature in the nation’s largest Army Corps project in New York-New Jersey Harbor

A plan for the largest transformation of New York City’s and northern New Jersey’s waterfront since the Robert Moses era has been proposed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). It’s called the New York-New Jersey Harbor and Tributaries Study and it was introduced to the public to address flooding and storms like Hurricane Sandy. At stake is the future of more than 84 miles of waterfront and waterways in the metropolitan region and an area that supports 16 million people.  

New York City

New York and New Jersey residents must determine if this $52 billion dollar plan aligns with the future they want. Addressing flood risks is a step in the right direction, but as it stands today, the current proposal does not reflect the priorities of many communities and environmental organizations. With the impacts of climate change already in motion, we simply cannot afford to get this wrong.  Read More »

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Five recommendations for integrating equity into benefit-cost analysis for flood risk management

When making any decision, we often find ourselves weighing the pros and cons of an action – the benefits versus the cost. The official practice, referred to as “benefit-cost analysis,” is not only used by individuals and businesses, but also by the federal government when determining funding for a program or initiative. In simple terms, when the benefits exceed the cost of an investment, federal funding may be made available.

flooding

But oftentimes benefit-cost analysis doesn’t look at the full picture, neglecting to consider who benefits from an investment and who bears the brunt of its cost. This is true when examining the nation’s flood risk management strategy. Historically, the annual loss from flood damage disproportionately impacts low-income communities and communities of color, leaving those with fewer resources less protected.

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How new provisions in the Water Resources Development Act are building climate resilience

The Water Resources Development Act of 2022 (WRDA 2022) passed through Congress last December as part of the James M. Inhofe National Defense Authorization Act. This typically biennial and bipartisan legislation invests in water infrastructure by authorizing projects, studies and programs led by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). Across the country, the new legislation allows USACE to play a critical role in protecting, enhancing and restoring coastal and riverine areas from climate-impacted flooding and storms. Read More »

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New research shows the potential consequences of unpriced flood risk in US housing markets

No region of the US is unaffected by the impacts of climate change. From recent flooding in California to impending sea level rise along the East coast, the increased risk of climate disasters has made every community more vulnerable.

New research published in Nature Climate Change led by EDF economists finds that increasing flood risk due to climate change pose threats to the stability of the US housing market. Published with researchers from First Street Foundation, Resources for the Future, the Federal Reserve, and several academic institutions, our research revealed that the real estate located in flood zones is overvalued by US$121–US$237 billion due to unpriced climate risk.

Growing flood risk—and a growing bubble in the housing market

pricebubblegraphic

Currently, over 14.6 million properties in the United States face at least a 1% annual probability of flooding, with expected annual damages to residential properties exceeding US$32 billion. The increasing frequency and severity of flooding under climate change is predicted to increase the number of properties exposed to flooding by 11% and average annual losses by at least 26% by 2050.

The increasing risk and cost of flooding due to climate change has led to growing concerns that housing markets are mispricing these risks, thus causing a real estate bubble to develop.

Supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation’s Megalopolitan Coastal Transformation Hub, the study is the first-ever national-scale assessment of climate risk to property values, using the property-specific, climate-adjusted First Street Foundation flood model. To do this, we evaluated the extent to which property values already account for the costs of flooding. We then compared those price discounts with property prices that fully capture expected damages from flooding over the next 30 years.

We found a nearly $200 billion dollar bubble.

The cascading and inequitable impacts of unpriced flood risk

Accurately pricing the costs of flood in home values is needed to support climate adaptation and to remove perverse incentives for development in floodplains. However, doing so could have negative financial impacts on households, communities, and municipalities. In the event that property values fully account for exposure to climate risk, our results raise concern that:

  1. Low-income communities are particularly vulnerable. The extent to which flood risk is not priced into housing values varies based on neighborhood and state characteristics, with low-income households at a higher risk of losing home equity . Such inequities have the potential to exacerbate wealth gaps in the US.
  2. Coastal housing markets are particularly vulnerable. In general, we find that highly overvalued properties are concentrated in counties along the coast with no flood risk disclosure laws and where there is less concern about climate change. In particular, properties in Florida are overvalued by more than US$50 billion.
  3. Municipalities that are heavily reliant on property taxes for revenue could experience budgetary shortfalls if housing prices are corrected for flood risk. Cities and towns concentrated in coastal counties, as well as inland areas in northern New England, eastern Tennessee, central Texas, Wisconsin, Idaho and Montana, are particularly vulnerable to losing revenues in the event of a pricing correction. In these areas, local governments may need to adapt their fiscal structure in order to continue to provide essential public goods and services.

We need efficient and effective climate change policies

The cost of unrealized flood risk in the US real estate market is an increasing threat to economic stability for households, communities and municipalities. Despite clear need for improving flood risk communication via updated flood maps, broadening flood risk disclosure laws at the state and federal level, and increasing investment in flood risk reduction, the realization of these risks will largely depend on policy choices that influence the distribution of flood-related costs in society. In effect, these policy choices will require decision-makers to grapple with moral questions about who should bear the costs of climate-related disasters.

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My perspectives on how we can inspire the next generation of Black climate leaders.

By Arianna Mackey, Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) Summer 2022 Intern

I became aware of my community’s lack of environmental awareness at a very young age. Growing up in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia, my family and I visited the Nauticus museum often. One afternoon, after spending time in the flooding exhibit, I explained to my mom that due to increased flooding, Virginia Beach would be inhabitable in the future, with standing water reaching the front door following a storm. She brushed me off by saying it was an “over-exaggeration” and our community was fine. That encounter piqued my interest in environmentalism. Read More »

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Virginia’s Legislature made progress on flood resilience in 2022, but significant work remains.

Last month, a Nor’easter left parts of Hampton Roads flooded for days, disrupting transit and damaging property. This situation is a reality for a growing number of Virginians who are experiencing more intense and frequent flooding due to rising sea levels and heavier precipitation.

Without action, coastal flood damages are expected to cost Virginia $5.1 billion annually by 2080, which is why its leaders must use every tool in the toolbox to match the scale of challenges facing people across the Commonwealth.

While Virginia’s General Assembly concluded its 2022 legislative session with several successes, more work is needed – particularly in securing long-term funding for flood resilience, to protect people and natural resources from flood threats now and in the future.

Here are three key takeaways from Virginia’s legislative session relating to flood resilience. Read More »

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New Army Corps guidelines will expand natural infrastructure to reduce flood risk and more

This year has brought devastating flooding in the Netherlands, Germany, China, the U.S. and elsewhere. Globally, over 2.2 billion people are exposed to flooding, and that number is growing.

New research indicates the proportion of people living in floodplains since 2000 has increased by 20% to 24%, and climate change is further increasing flood risk with rising sea levels, more intense storms and extreme rainfall events. We need urgent action to protect people from these growing risks.

To this end, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) just released their “International Guidelines on the use of Natural and Nature-Based Features (NNBF) for Flood Risk Management.” Here’s why that’s a big deal.

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5 ways federal policymakers can bring equity into flood risk reduction

Flooding remains the costliest, most deadly natural disaster in the U.S., causing more than $1 trillion in damages since 1980.

As climate change continues to fuel more intense hurricanes, sea level rise and heavier rain events, more Americans are at risk from flooding than ever before. And federal resources to protect communities from flooding are not provided to all communities equitably.

This gap in protection is a direct result of unintentional, but consequential flaws in the current cost-benefit analyses that agencies like the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) use for flood protection projects.

Here are a few ways policymakers and coastal planners can help adjust cost-benefit analyses to expand access to flood protection and achieve more equitable results.

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