USA: FEMA flood maps ignore climate change, and homeowners are paying the price
By James Bruggers
The official map laid it out for more than 200 homes within the community of Mexico Beach, Florida: the federal government had characterized their flooding risks as minimal, despite their near-beachfront locations.
That meant for them there were no requirements to buy flood insurance, and local residents say many did not.
"The sad thing is for a lot of these folks, they won't be able to rebuild because of the construction costs," said architect Fred Etchen, who owns a construction and property management business near Mexico Beach.
FEMA said it had spent $200 million in recent years updating the maps, including those for coastal areas.
But a study published in February showed that the FEMA maps are missing the mark for tens of millions of Americans. More than 40 million Americans are exposed to serious flood risk at the 100-year-flood or 1 percent level, roughly three times more than appear on FEMA's flood maps, the study in the scientific journal Environmental Research Letters concluded.
Yet even as scientists learn more about hurricanes and climate change, FEMA flood-risk mapping does not take into account how global warming is changing the climate, including how sea level is rising.