NU Online News Service, Aug. 5, 2:44 p.m. EDT
WASHINGTON—Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., is warning that the federal government needs to do more to respond to growing demands for disaster assistance in the wake of “stronger weather events.”
He makes his comments at a Senate hearing after Frank Nutter, president of the Reinsurance Association of America (RAA), said in a prepared statement that an increase in severe-weather events “requires a more forward-looking and proactive approach to financing recovery from disasters” from the U.S. government.
Both point to the National Flood Insurance Program and the federal crop-insurance subsidy program as primary examples of where the federal government needs to do a better job of preparing for natural disasters.
Nutter also cites other Federal Emergency Management Agency programs.
“The federal government has the additional burden of disaster assistance following catastrophic events and appears to rely primarily on post-event appropriations,” Nutter says.
In responding, Durbin says, “We are not prepared. Our weather events are getting worse—catastrophic in fact.”
He says the private sector is prepared, “but the federal government is ignoring the obvious. We need to do more to protect federal assets and respond to growing demands for disaster assistance on an increasing frequency.”
Nutter says that data points to a “clear increase in the number and financial impact of U.S. and non-U.S. natural catastrophes.”
He adds that these include geophysical (earthquake), climatological (extreme temperature, drought, wildfire), hydrological (flood) and meteorological (winter and thunder storms and related hurricanes and tornadoes) events.
Nutter says that much of this increase can be attributed to changes in weather intensity and climate-related impacts.
However, he says, “the fundamental driver is the increase in the number of people living in areas vulnerable to catastrophic storms, the increase in property values in these high-risk areas, and the vulnerability of construction materials and technology.”
Nutter says the “reality is that our society has moved increasingly to areas with the greatest exposure to natural catastrophes along our coasts and rivers and invaded the natural landscape in areas susceptible to wildfire and drought.
“Where these areas once served as natural habitats to wildlife and buffers from natural hazards, they are now populated with communities and infrastructure,” Nutter adds.
Nutter explains that no one can reliably predict specific weather events more than a few days in advance and there is no reliable prediction for earthquakes.
“That does not preclude, however, financial planning for the likelihood of these events or for reliance on the scientific community to assess future conditions that can be used to make decisions about appropriate policy matters,” he says.