From the Reason:

As the media and politicians rush to blame the intensity of and damage from Hurricane Harvey on climate change and zoningRay Lehmann of R Street wants to talk about a more obvious villain: public policies that use tax dollars to subsidize development and population growth in flood-prone areas.

Harvey, he says, isn’t a weather problem, it’s a “people problem.”

“More than half the US population now lives in coastal counties,” says Lehmann, who believes that climate change is happening and that human activity contributes to it. “That’s up about 45% over the decades from 1970 to 2010.”

Is Houston’s lack of zoning is part of the problem? Lehmann points out the most of the areas destroyed by Superstorm Sandy were heavily restricted when it came to land-use, zoning, and planning. As an instructive alternative, he talks about Port Aransas, south of Houston the Gulf Coast. When Harvey made landfall then, it was a Category 4 hurricane, stronger than when it smacked Houston. Yet due to a 1980 law, the Coastal Barrier Resources Act, the area is less develped because all federal subsidies—for roads, electricity, water, flood insurance, and more—were barred. When people are faced to pay full price for where they want to live, they tend to choose areas less likely to get wiped out.

Lehmann believes that climate change is real and that human activity adds to it. Controversially among many libertarians and free-marketers, he and R Street support a carbon tax to reduce greenhouse gases, even as he says any reductions will likely have minimal effects on the climate. Ideally, says Lehmann, the carbon tax would be used to reduce corporate income taxes to zero, freeing up resources for the sort of economic growth and technological innovation that will allow us to cope more easily with all sorts of problems, including extreme weather. “The greatest response to climate change is to be wealthy and to have the resources to be able to deal with the effects,” he says.

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