George Kasimos has almost finished repairing flood damage to his waterfront home, but his Superstorm Sandy nightmare is far from over.
Like thousands of others in the hardest-hit coastal stretches of New Jersey and New York, his life is in limbo as he waits to see if tough new coastal rebuilding rules make it just too expensive for him to stay.
That’s because the federal government’s newly released advisory flood maps have put his Toms River home in the most vulnerable area — the “velocity zone.” If that sticks, he’d have to jack his house up 14 feet on stilts at a cost of $150,000 or face up to $30,000 a year in flood insurance premiums.
Why a loaded die is like climate change. Climate change is shifting the odds, resulting in huge financial effects. Do we decide that our whole society – which is responsible for climate change – helps pay for these effects or do we just leave those who happen to be on the losing end of the die toss to bear the brunt?
Higher sea waters mean that flood plains near the coast will change. This means that hones that used to stand outside the need for flood insurance are now inside. And the increased odds bring larger insurance premiums.
Which means that they now have two options: lift their homes on stilts above the flood level or pay for huge increases in flood insurance premiums.
If you chose to build in a flood plain, you go into it knowing the consequences. But when a flood plain moves into you, it can be devastating.
A simple home elevation can cost $60,000. Insurance premiums could be increased $30,000 a year. Government hel – help from all of us – is being constricted due to concerns abut the debt.
Many people are in denial:
They think Sandy was a fluke, a storm to end all storms, the kind they won’t ever see again. And they’re preparing to do battle with the government for the right to continue living just as they have for generations — in low-lying abodes that were never built to endure storms, let alone the fierce hurricanes of the 21st century.
But sea levels continue to rise. And it appears that current weather changes may drive more hurricanes up the eastern seaboard than into the Gulf. This will happen again.
And while America has decided that it can help rebuild homes damaged by storms like this it has also decided to greatly reduce Federal subsidies for flood insurance, even for people who have the misfortune to now live where rising sea levels can reach them.
We mandated higher premiums for those in a flood plain, shortened the revision times for determining where flood plains exist and removed lower rates that were grandfathered in. Now if the flood plain increases due to climate change, many people are just on their own. We decided that helping those hurt by increasing climate change was not as important as lowering the debt.
So many people living in what had been dry areas of the coast face some horrible options, including simply walking away from their homes because they cannot afford to pay for them anymore and no one will pay for the huge insurance premiums. Entire areas may soon be ghost towns because few can afford to live there.
The insurance companies know about climate change. That is why the rates are going up. Our attitude seems to be to just let those people who, through no fault of their own now live in a flood plain, to bear the full brunt of this change. One that will get larger as we move forward in this century.
I believe that since we are all responsible, we should all pay. But some Americans believe that only the unlucky should have to pay.
Members of Congress – both Republican and Democrat, in the House and in the Senate – are trying to fix this problem, introducing legislation that would ameliorate some of these huge insurance changes now affecting millions by making us all become part of the solution. And some of our conservative Americans want to keep things as they are, letting the unlucky deal with it.
Do we come together to help everyone or do we let the unlucky fend for themselves?
We need to make sure we have a very good conversation here because it will happen again and it will get worse. This can not be ignored or denied.