I’m running off to my environmental economics class, so can’t spend time on this. But if we are nominating pieces of journalism in economics for the “top 10″ worst articles of the year, this would surely be a candidate. A little sliver:
Because lists of “repetitive loss” properties are maintained by cities and counties, rather than federal authorities, Wetlands Watch had a hard time getting comprehensive data. But where numbers were available — in Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, Hampton and Portsmouth – Wetlands Watch found nearly 3,000 properties awaiting funding. Local flood managers told the group it costs between $75,000 and $250,000 either to raise a home and protect it from the tides, or to acquire it so the homeowner can move out. Which means that in just five Virginia jurisdictions, the study says, it would cost more than $430 million to protect the homes that have already been damaged.
And that’s just “repetitive loss” properties, a specific category of homes insured by the National Flood Insurance Program that have sustained at least $1,000 in damage twice in a 10-year period. Many more homes are not covered by flood insurance. And many additional homes are likely to sustain damage in the future, if the seas rise, as predicted, by a meter or more on the East Coast over the next century.
One’s mind can only wonder at how surprising it must be for people who own homes on storm ravaged coasts that there is a possibility their home might be flooded or swept out to sea. One’s mind can only wonder why private insurance does or does not exist here and what the premiums are here. One’s mind can only wonder why, after centuries of sea level rise, that people who choose to live near the coast somehow forgot that they should worry about it, and that now, only now, after the 5th IPCC report, we are awakened to the possibility that the water levels where we live might continue to rise. One can only wonder why, as the worst case of the article states, dealing with over a trillion dollars of flood protection over a 100 year period is some sort of incredible challenge. And one’s mind can only wonder at the feebleness of thought (or rather, the bully instinct) that articulates that it is some sort of shared responsibility for me, living in Rochester, to support people with beachfront cottages.