Safe Building Group Looks to Change Climate of a Heated Campaign

In three tumultuous presidential debates, global warming may be the biggest issue to barely get a mention. 

So now a group representing insurers, environmentalists, taxpayer groups, consumer housing groups and first responders is reaching out to both candidates to get climate change on the agenda. The SmarterSafer Coalition wrote this week to both presidential candidates, urging them to lean on Congress if elected to pass legislation promoting construction of infrastructure better able to withstand severe storms and flooding stemming from a warming climate. 

Hurricane Matthew damage | Photo courtesy of Jocelyn Augustino/FEMA (2016)

“Increasingly frequent and severe storms pose an unprecedented risk to life and property for millions of Americans, and will require the next president’s urgent attention,” the letter said. 

The group says federal disaster relief policy focuses on sending emergency aid to rebuild after devastating storms, rather than providing funding and incentives on the front end to build and maintain stronger infrastructure.  To make matters worse, much of the reconstruction after natural disasters is no less vulnerable to severe storms.

“This approach is completely unsustainable, and we urge you to use the bully pulpit of this presidential campaign to call on Congress to implement a national mitigation strategy,” the coalition said. 

Many studies show that for every $1 spent on disaster-resilient homes and businesses, $4 is saved on post-disaster recovery efforts. But while the math makes sense, getting Congress to transparently provide up-front funding for storm resilience would require lawmakers to offset the additional spending with budget cuts or revenue increases.  Storm relief after the fact is often provided as emergency funding—which requires no offsetting spending cuts or revenue increases. 

“Congress should make changes to disaster assistance so that states and communities that plan for mitigation risks are ‘rewarded’ with the full share of federal disaster assistance, while those that do not plan for known risk receive less,” the letter said.