Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Allstate to Limit Coverage in Maryland

Last week, Allstate Corp. announced that it would stop providing new homeowners' insurance coverage in all or part of 11 counties surrounding the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries1 based on concerns that oceanic warming could cause stronger storms to hit the northeast. Some have already questioned the move, but I, for one, applaud it.

Insurance companies, which are still reeling from the damage created by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, seem now to be taking seriously the concern that a warmer Atlantic Ocean could cause more violent hurricanes (For the current state of the science, check out NOAA's "Atlantic Hurricanes & Climate" [pdf]). While the scientific community is still deliberating on the relationship between hurricane severity in the Atlantic and global warming (the period from 1945 to 1970 had what appears to be a similar level of storms), there is little question that several other factors have lead to the increased destructiveness of these storms. Foremost among them, is "rising concentrations of population and infrastructure in coastal regions."

In the US, at least, both private and public insurers have subsidized this colonization of the coastline, and have made it economically viable for individuals to put themselves and their homes in harms way, often destroying millions of acres of vital wetlands and coastal barrier features in the process.

It's incumbent that FEMA, in particular, stop writing new flood insurance policies countrywide and prepare the program for a gradual phase out. As homes and businesses covered by the program are flooded or destroyed by storms, policy owners should be given a payout with the understanding that they can either, 1) take the funds and purchase property outside the floodzone, or 2) use the funds to rebuild their home on its prior site, but that in either case, they will not be provided flood insurance into the future. It's patently ludicrous for the American taxpayer to subsidize development which is environmentally destructive, dangerous to its inhabitants, and a poor investment.

1 The changes take effect in February 2007, and will apply to residents in Calvert, Dorchester, Somerset, St. Mary's, Talbot, Wicomico and Worcester counties and parts of Anne Arundel, Charles, Prince George's and Queen Anne's.

Additional reading material:

  • The Beaches are Moving: The Drowning of America's Shoreline. (1983). Wallace Kaufman and Orrin H. Pilkey Jr.

  • THE BEACHES ARE MOVING: A Look At The Rising Sea Level And Its Impact On Coastline Communities, Particularly Ocean City, Maryland (1997). Shauna Johnson.

  • Bayou Farewell: The Rich Life and Tragic Death of Louisiana's Cajun Coast. (2003). Mike Tidwell.

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