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Climate change refugees grapple with effects of rising seas

By dailymail / Published on Sunday, 13 Aug 2017 17:07 PM / No Comments


In the U.S., some states have already received funding from the federal government. Last year, Louisiana received $92 million from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for two coastal resilience-building projects.

The state earmarked $48 million of that award to relocate 99 residents off the small island of Isle de Jean Charles, in what will be one of the first climate-induced relocation effort undertaken in the U.S. Louisiana also plans to use nearly $40 million to implement a program to shore up the state’s natural disaster preparedness and recovery strategies.

Since 1955, 98 percent of the island’s mass has been swallowed up, according to HUD, with relocation efforts expected to be completed over the next few years.

Pat Forbes, executive director of Louisiana’s Office of Community Development (OCD), said there is a lot more to the project than just getting the people off the island.

“If all we do is get the people off the island, we have not succeeded,” Forbes said. “We need them to be a community and hopefully even build a stronger community.”

Mathew Sanders, the OCD’s resilience program and policy administrator, said Louisiana is testing out policies and frameworks that could potentially be used by other communities across the country facing similar problems.

Louisiana, however, is just one recipient of federal aid. Other states haven’t been as fortunate, at least not yet.

Philip Stoddard, the mayor of South Miami, said he does not expect to see financial assistance from the federal government anytime soon — even though one in eight homes in Florida could be underwater by 2100, Zillow data states.

“In the short run . . . the problem is almost overwhelming to the most clear-thinking of politicians, Stoddard said, as he blasted President Donald Trump’s skepticism on climate change. Yet even still, the lingering issue of cost looms large in the debate.

“In the long run, the entire menu of possible solutions is unaffordable,” Stoddard added.

At the current time, the mayor does not expect support from Florida, either, but said municipalities should meet with members of the community and come up with their own regional plans. Still, Stoddard said the problem with that approach was that “local neighborhoods are not very good at spending money on what they perceive as long-term problems.”

Stoddard believes flood insurance rates — which have been subsidized for years by governments — will be the so-called tipping point for homeowners in the U.S.

When rates are allowed to rise to a level that matches the actuarial risk of flooding, homeowners will find they cannot afford their flood insurance and will pressure elected officials to take action, he argued.

“Homeowners will find themselves underwater literally and figuratively,” Stoddard said.

–Reuters contributed to this article.