Insurance and Climate Change column

IBHS Chief Wright Urges Congress to Consider Tax Credits for Climate Resilience

By | May 30, 2019

Roy E. Wright, CEO and president of the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety, wants Congress to consider financing resilience.

The IBHS chief testified during a recent appearance before the House Ways and Means Committee that severe weather events today drive personal and economic loss, disruption and family displacement, and have long-term impacts on people, as well as local and state economies, for years after the event.

But the impacts of those events can be reduced, he said.

“The goal of climate adaptation is to take actions today to reduce losses tomorrow,” Wright said on May 15 in his submitted testimony. “Recognizing that we can’t predict specific weather events next month, much less over the next several decades, IBHS knows that putting proven building science solutions in place now will reduce disaster losses in the future. Given its important societal and economic benefits, adaptation is a sound fiscal strategy, public health objective, and humanitarian obligation.”

Wright, who applauded government-funded resilience initiatives passed last year, said it’s important to find ways to encourage homeowners and businesses to make their own investments to reduce the impacts of disaster.

One way to do that, which he said he backs, is through tax credits.

H.R. 6841 Disaster Savings and Resilient Construction Act of 2018, introduced last year, would have amended the Internal Revenue Code to allow a business-related tax credit for a specified portion of the cost of commercial and residential buildings that comply with resilient construction requirements in a federally-declared major disaster area.

The bill defined “resilient construction requirements” as buildings that are designed and constructed to: (1) resist hazards brought on by a major disaster; (2) continue to provide their primary functions after a major disaster; (3) reduce the magnitude or duration of a disruptive event; and (4) have the absorptive capacity, adaptive capacity, and recoverability to withstand a potentially disruptive event.

Variations of the bill have been filed in year’s past, and the hope is that some of the committee members will be interested in reintroducing the legislation.

Wright told the committee that tax credits may prove to be one of the most promising approaches to incentivize U.S. home and business owners to invest in resilient building or retrofitting.

“A homeowner disaster resilience credit has potential to reduce federal post-disaster payments and provide an important incentive to building owners who persist in the belief that adaptation investments are unnecessary because ‘it can’t happen to me,'” Wright said. “What better pathway to reducing this growing risk than Americans taking specific, impactful steps to their own home?”

Wright, who joined the IBHS in 2018, was formerly with the Federal Emergency Management Agency as chief executive of the National Flood Insurance Program.

Connecticut

The Connecticut House on Tuesday passed a bill that would potentially make Connecticut the first state to mandate the teaching of human-induced climate change.

H.B. 5011, which passed on a 103-43 vote largely along party lines, would amend section 10-16b of the state’s general statutes by mandating that the science curriculum of the prescribed courses of study for public schools include the teaching of climate change and that such teaching begin in elementary school.

Democrat state Rep. Christine Palm proposed the legislation, which was mostly opposed by Republicans.

Rep. Doug Dubitsky, a Republican from a rural Connecticut district, who helped to lead an hours-long filibuster, said some “very credible” scientists dispute the reality of climate change.

Dubitsky also wanted to know if the curriculum will address other trends that he says are causing a warming planet, including weaker magnetic fields that have resulted in greater solar radiation, the Hartford Courant reported.

“The jury’s still out in my view,” Dubitsky was quoted as saying by the Hartford Courant. “We should be encouraging open debate, we should be encouraging people who don’t agree with this so-called consensus.”

The bill was Referred to the Joint Committee on Education.

Blog

The East Coast could soon be pounded by more intense and destructive hurricanes than ever before, according to a World Economic Forum blog published on Wednesday.

The cause of the worsening hurricane risk is greenhouse gases, which researchers say are disrupting patterns of air circulation known as wind shear, according to the blog.

“Wind shear – a change in the speed or direction of the wind as it travels – can restrict the impact of a hurricane by diffusing it across a wide area,” the blog states. “Historically, there is a high wind shear present across the US’s Atlantic Coast, helping prevent storms from growing too rapidly.”

The blog draws upon work by a team from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, which created models that demonstrate the two main factors for determining a storm’s strength and intensity: the surface temperature of the ocean and wind shear. The higher the temperature of the water, the more powerful a hurricane is likely to be – but a strong wind shear will act like a barrier, limiting the storm’s intensity, the blog notes.

“Now a link has been observed between rising levels of atmospheric CO2 – and other greenhouse gases – and weakening vertical wind shear along the East Coast of the US. That will make it less likely that recent violent episodes of extreme weather will start to dissipate after making landfall, and may instead grow in strength,” the blog states.

USA Today

USA Today took an in-depth look at the current weather in an article on Wednesday, “Floods, tornadoes, snow in May: Extreme weather driven by climate change across US.”

The story notes that flooding along the Mississippi River is the worst it’s been since 1927; more than 50 tornadoes touched down over the recent Memorial Day weekend and in Denver it snowed more than three inches last week.

“Climate scientists say this is only the beginning of what will be decades of increasingly dangerous and damaging extreme weather – and there’s no question that much of it’s being driven by global warming,” the story states.

The story quotes several climate scientists who say it’s extraordinarily unlikely that this is just a set of typical weather events that just happen to occur at the same time.

One of those scientists, Noah Diffenbaugh, a professor of climate science at Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif., said global warming has already increased the odds of record hot and wet events happening in 75 percent of North America.

The article notes that the U.S. is seeing “clear increases in historical terms of severe heat, heavy rainfalls and storm-surge flooding.”

“Heat-trapping carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere by burning coal, oil and other fossil fuels are the cause of the higher temperatures,” the article states.

The Earth’s average temperature has already increased by 1.4 degrees since 1880, according to NASA’s Earth Observatory.

“We are at the beginning of what’s going to be a number of decades where the climate is going to be changing very fast. During that time we will have many unexpected weather events,” Richard Rood, a meteorologist and professor of climate research at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, told USA Today.

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