FEMA Fiddles on Future Flooding

Via Wikimedia Commons

Via Wikimedia Commons

Remember when Congress did things? Just last year, it passed a bill requiring the Federal Emergency Management Agency to figure out how the National Flood Insurance program should handle rising seas brought about by global warming. Congress wasn’t going all touchy-feely about the environment. The provision was tucked into a 584 page transportation funding bill.

The first step required by the bill was for FEMA to establish an advisory panel, called the Technical Mapping Advisory Council which was to consult with scientists to help ensure that flood insurance rate maps incorporate the “best available climate science” to assess flood risk, and to ensure that FEMA uses the best available technology to consider the impact of rising sea levels. How’s that working out? According to an investigation by ProPublica,  the entire program has stalled before it got out of the gate. ProPublica tells us that, to date, FEMA hasn’t named a single member to the council.

This may sound like an obscure bit of bureaucratic delay in an agency that has had more than its fair share of bad press. But if any part of the federal government will be impacted by global warming and rising seas, it’s FEMA. The agency itself estimates that sea levels will rise an average of four feet in this century, increasing the portion of the country at risk of flooding by 45%. The National Flood Insurance Program is the country’s first line of financial defense, but it is currently $25 billion in debt after Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Sandy. Many of the maps FEMA and the insurance program rely on are decades out of date and were drawn up long before anyone thought of rising seas presenting a threat.

ProPublica quotes Jimi Grande, the senior vice president for federal and political affairs for the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies who says, “We need to know what the risks are to have an intelligent conversation as a country.”

ProPublica tried to have an intelligent conversation with FEMA’s press secretary. That conversation went nowhere because the agency was on furlough due to the government shutdown.

One response to this post.

  1. […] We’ve looked at how a rise in sea level would effect us domestically and the results were not heartening. It’s pretty easy A-to-B math to see that if the sea level goes up, many coastal cities will […]


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