Considering the Role of Government in Communicating Climate Change: Lessons from the US Public Flood Insurance Program

  • Chad J. McGuire
Part of the Climate Change Management book series (CCM)


The aim of this paper is to discuss the United States public flood insurance and disaster relief programs in the context of current policies that influence current and future policy goals related to climate change. The methodology employed is a case study approach that looks at the historical development of current public flood insurance and disaster relief policy and then places that history in the context of recent and current stated policy goals of mitigating future impacts of climate change. This history is then compared to current understandings of how policy develops, specifically how exiting policies can frustrate new policy directions, which is discussed under the context of climate change communication. The goal is to highlight the importance of looking at the whole of government actions when attempting to incorporate climate change into the public discourse. The critical lesson from this case study is to understand how existing government policies can create incentives that influence perceptions of risk related to climate change, and thus complicate the development of new policy directions. In this example of US public flood insurance and disaster relief, historical treatments of climate-related risk need to be considered when attempting to communicate new understandings of climate change risk.


Climate change Risk communication Public flood insurance Sea-level rise 


  1. Anderson DR (1974) The national flood insurance program: problems and potential. J Risk Insur 16(4):579–599CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Atreya A, Ferreira S (2014) Seeing is believing?: evidence from property prices in inundated areas. Risk Anal 35(5):828–848CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bin O, Polsky S (2004) Effects of flood hazards on property values: evidence before and after Hurricane Floyd. Land Econ 80(4):490–500CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bin O, Crawford TW, Kruse JB, Landry CE (2008a) Viewscapes and flood hazard: coastal housing market response to amenities and risk. Land Econ 84(3):434–448CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bin O, Kruse JB, Landry CE (2008b) Flood hazards, insurance rates, and amenities: evidence from the coastal market. J Risk Insur 75(1):63–82CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Binder SB, Baker CK, Barile JP (2015) Rebuild or relocate? resilience and postdisaster decision-making after Hurricane Sandy. Am J Community Psychol 56(1):180–196CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bourassa SC, Haurin DR, Haurin JL, Hoesli M, Sun J (2009) House price changes and idiosyncratic risk: the impact of property characteristics. Real Estate Econ 37(2):259–278CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Case KE, Shiller RJ (1989) The efficiency of the market for single-family homes. Am Econ Rev 79(1):125–137Google Scholar
  9. Church J, Clark P, Cazenave A, Gregory J, Jevrejeva S, Levermann A, Merrifield M, Milne G, Nerem RS, Nunn P, Payne A, Pfeffer WT, Stammer D, Unnikrishnan A (2013) Sea level change. In: Stocker T, Qin D, Plattner GK, Tignor M, Allen S, Boschung J, Nauels A, Xia Y, Bex V, Midgley P (eds) Climate change 2013: the physical science basis. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UKGoogle Scholar
  10. CRS (2013) The national flood insurance program: status and remaining issues for congress. Congressional Research Service, Washington DCGoogle Scholar
  11. Grossman D (1958) Flood insurance: can a feasible program be created? Land Econ 34(4):352–357CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Harrison DM, Smersh GT, Schwartz AL (2001) Environmental determinants of housing prices: the impact of flood zone status. J Real Estate Res 21(1):3–20Google Scholar
  13. Healy A, Malhotra N (2009) Myopic voters and natural disaster policy. Am Polit Sci Rev 103(3):387–406CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Jacques PJ (2012) A general theory of climate denial. Global Environ Polit 12(2):9–17CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Kasperson RE (1986) Six propositions on public participation and their relevance for risk communication. Risk Anal 6(3):275–281CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Katz LF, Rosen KT (1987) The interjurisdictional effects of growth controls on housing prices. J Law Econ 30(1):149–160CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Knowles S, Kunreuther H (2014) Troubled waters: the national flood insurance program in historical perspective. J Policy Hist 26(3):327–353CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Kousky C (2010) Learning from extreme events: risk perceptions after the flood. Land Econ 86(3):395–422CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Landry CE, Hindsley P (2011) Valuing beach quality with hedonic property models. Land Econ 87(1):92–108CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. McGuire C (2014) Climate-induced sea level rise and sustainable coastal management: the influence of existing policy frameworks on risk perception. Sustain J Rec 7(6):299–303Google Scholar
  21. McGuire C (2015) The role of risk perception in building sustainable policy instruments: a case study of public coastal flood insurance in the USA. Interdisc Environ Rev 16(2/3/4):232–252Google Scholar
  22. Michel-Kerjan E (2010) Catastrophe economies: the national flood insurance program. J Econ Perspect 24(4):165–186CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Michel-Kerjan E, Lemoyne de Forges S, Kunreuther H (2012) Policy tenure under the U.S. national flood insurance program (NFIP). Risk Anal 32(4):644–658CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. NOAA (2013) National Coastal population report: population trends from 1970 to 2020. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Washington DCGoogle Scholar
  25. NRC (2014) Reducing coastal risk on the East and Gulf Coasts. National Research Council, National Academies Press, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  26. Pasterick ET (1998) The national flood insurance program. In: Kunreuther H, Roth RJ (eds) Paying the price: the status and role of insurance against natural disasters in the United States. Joseph Henry Press, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  27. Rappaport J, Sachs JD (2003) The United States as a coastal nation. J Econ Growth 8(1):5–46CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Rosen KT, Katz LF (1981) Growth management and land use controls: the San Francisco Bay Area experience. Real Estate Econ 9(4):321–344CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Saiz A (2010) The geographic determinants of housing supply. Q J Econ 125(3):1253–1296CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Slovic P (1987) Perception of risk. Science 236(4799):283–285CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Slovic P (1993) Perceived risk, trust, and democracy. Risk Anal 13(6):675–682CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Speyrer JF, Ragas WR (1991) Housing prices and flood risk: An examination using spline regression. J Real Estate Financ Econ 4(4):395–407CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Tversky A, Kahneman D (1981) The framing of decisions and the psychology of choice. Science 211(4481):453–458CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Wapner P (2014) Climate suffering. Global Environ Politics 14(2):1–6CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Waugh WL, Smith RB (2006) Economic development and reconstruction on the Gulf after Katrina. Econ Dev Q 20(3):211–218CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Public PolicyUniversity of Massachusetts DartmouthDartmouthUSA

Personalised recommendations