Propelled by enraged constituents whose skyrocketing flood insurance rates threaten hardship or even bankruptcy, the US Senate this week passed legislation to delay changes in the federal flood insurance program for another four years. But the destructive coastal storms associated with climate change are real, and cannot be wished away or kicked down the road for someone else to tackle. Instead of simply hitting the pause button, government officials should be helping homeowners in vulnerable areas retrofit their properties to be more climate-ready, shifting the focus toward preventing costly damage rather than just repairing it.
Red flags are everywhere. In Boston, sheer blind luck kept the city from severe flooding three times in a little over a year. Had Hurricane Sandy, the nor’easter Nemo last February, or the New Year’s blizzard last month peaked at high tide instead of a few hours before or after, water levels would have been 5 to 6 feet above average, according to the Boston Harbor Association. That’s enough to inundate much of downtown, from City Hall to the runways at Logan Airport. “You can’t negotiate with Mother Nature,” said Julie Wormser, executive director of the association.