WASHINGTON (July 9, 2010) – The growing fiscal burden of federal disaster spending—driven increasingly by climate change—compels lawmakers and policymakers to explore effective policies that prioritize adaptation, mitigation, the deployment of private capital and more accurate projections of risk, according to a new report from SmarterSafer.org.

Formed in 2008, SmarterSafer is a diverse coalition of voices united in favor of environmentally responsible, fiscally sound approaches to natural catastrophe policy that promote public safety. The R Street Institute has been an active member of the coalition since the institute was founded.

“In contrast with the strictly partisan report published recently by the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, SmarterSafer has always worked to find consensus among diverse stakeholders, including environmental and conservation groups, budget hawks and taxpayer advocates, affordable housing advocates and private industry,” said R.J. Lehmann, R Street’s director of finance, insurance and trade policy.

Among the report’s recommendations are reforms to the National Flood Insurance Program, which encourages development in flood-prone and environmentally sensitive regions and has borrowed nearly $40 billion from taxpayers over the past 15 years, with no feasible plan to ever pay off that debt. SmarterSafer advocates shifting the program toward risk-based rates, encouraging private options, investing in mitigation and updated flood maps and requiring the transparent disclosure of a property’s flood risk and flood history in all real estate transactions.

The report also calls for building resilient federal infrastructure to updated design standards and in accordance with an enhanced flood-protection standard. SmarterSafer recommends federal investments in climate-resilient housing in low-income communities and in preserving natural barriers such as marshes and dunes. It also calls for taxpayer protections like transferring federal disaster risk to insurance and capital markets and tying federal disaster assistance to states to requirements that those states take steps to mitigate disasters.

“We were honored to participate in writing and preparing this report and hope it sparks dialogue with Congress and other lawmakers interested in sensible market-oriented and budget-conscious approaches to dealing with the challenge of climate change,” Lehmann said.

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