Kansas v. Florida
Should Midwesterners pay for the damages which Florida coast-dwellers suffer from rising seas and more powerful storms? A southern California realtor opines that “Everybody wants to be near that water (the Pacific Ocean).” That may be true, but why shouldn’t beach people bear the full costs of doing so?
For decades, the federal government has subsidized beach living through the National Flood Insurance Program, where the premiums homeowners pay cover less than half the true risks. Federal monies also go for practices such as “beach nourishment” – replacing sand near beach properties that storms have washed away, sometimes repeatedly. We all pay for those programs through our federal taxes, even though most of us receive no direct benefits since we live and work far from ocean hazards. Federal subsidies to shore-huggers will in time be sharply cut or eliminated.
There have been efforts to reduce the federal government’s burden. In 2012, Congress approved a law to raise NFIP premiums to cover higher expected losses. But legislatures deal with conflicting interests where lawmakers pay close attention to their constituents’ needs. So in 2014 Congresspersons representing flood-prone areas delayed, for the time being, planned increases in flood insurance premiums.
Some elected officials, including the current President, deny that humankind has impacted natural systems, and also deny that rising oceans and storms have increased risks to ocean properties. Climate change deniers may support coast dwellers getting below-cost insurance for political convenience, until the government’s net costs become too high.
Private insurance companies are capable of furnishing disaster insurance, and customers who live near the oceans will fight to keep premium costs low as disaster losses increase. Coast dwellers may succeed in having Uncle Same offer insurance at less than full costs, but private, profit-seeking private insurance companies will not consciously do so. Bottom line, high-risk coastal properties may become uninsurable except at very high premiums.
Arguably those who choose to live or have businesses near the oceans should pay the full costs of being there, with or without insurance. Seas will continue to rise, powerful storms will become more frequent, and the costs of repairing flooding and storm damages will increase. Bottom line, a conservative person should include getting out of the way of higher, more turbulent seas in her decisions about where to live.