Damage to a home in East Haven during Superstorm Sandy. Jan Ellen Spiegel

Connecticut has had nine weather-related federal disaster declarations in the past 11 years, totaling more than $362 million in damages.

For Storms Irene, Sandy, and the 2011 October Nor’easter, insurers paid out more than $1 billion to cover insured damages in Connecticut.

Commissioners Andrew Mais and Katie Dykes

The damage caused by these events are devastating to those directly affected, and they have countless ripple effects on communities, too. After Superstorm Sandy, the town of Milford lost more than $1 million from its grand list due to the homes that were destroyed. What if thousands of homes were lost along the entire coast?

The climate crisis is upon us. The science is clear. We must act now.

Here in Connecticut, as in every other part of the world, we are already experiencing the impact of climate change.  Because of greenhouse gas emissions already released into the atmosphere, these impacts will accelerate  between now and 2050, including rising seas, higher temperatures, heavier rainfall events, more frequent droughts, and hurricanes with stronger winds and more precipitation.  Since 1980, there has been an increase in the frequency of hurricanes in category three or greater.

These conditions will lead to potentially greater damage to property and a greater threat to public health and safety.

The estimated insured value of Connecticut coastal property exposures in 2018 was $754 billion, which makes the state the sixth highest of the Atlantic and Gulf states. As a percentage of a state’s total insured values, Connecticut is second only to Florida with coastal property making up 66% of its statewide total insured value.

Insurers, who make their livelihood through keen analysis of risk assessment, understand well the risks associated with the climate crisis.

If continued mitigation and adaptation measures aren’t taken, consumers may have issues obtaining adequate insurance. Rates will continue to increase, or worse, insurers may leave the market altogether.

Bond rating agencies too are keenly aware of the climate crisis. In 2017, Moody’s warned coastal cities they would be downgraded if they didn’t address climate risks. And it isn’t just coastal municipalities that are at risk, as a quarter of flood losses occur outside of FEMA flood zones.

These challenges are not unique to Connecticut—but Connecticut’s continued leadership in addressing climate change is positioning our state to proactively address these challenges in a way that can better protect communities into the future.

We must aggressively reduce emissions to prevent even worse impacts from climate change. The good news is that climate modeling shows us that temperatures will stabilize after 2050 if we reduce emissions now. The Lamont Administration has restored energy efficiency programs, procured new offshore wind power that will supply 14% of the state’s energy needs by 2025, creating clean energy jobs along the way.

We must continue this leadership by enacting Senate Bill 882 to achieve a zero carbon energy supply by 2040.  The transportation sector is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in our state.  Implementing the Transportation Climate Initiative (Senate Bill 884) will reduce transportation carbon pollution 26% by 2030, and generate $1 billion in investments in electric cars and buses, bike paths, expanded transit service, prioritizing communities that have been underserved by our transportation system and overburdened by air pollution from vehicle traffic.

To protect Connecticut communities from extreme weather events worsened by climate change, we will need to reinvest in resilient infrastructure by taking both a “gray” and “green” infrastructure approach. We will need to prevent flooding to our critical emergency, energy, water and transportation infrastructure through relocation, elevation or installation of flood barriers and pump stations, and also utilize nature-based solutions like rain gardens, bioswales and living shorelines that prevent erosion, absorb precipitation and provide ecosystem services to communities. The Biden Administration is poised to make federal funds available for these projects, but local matching funds will be needed.

Governor Lamont’s climate change adaptation bill (HB 6441) provides municipalities with new funding tools to kick start these projects. The bill enables municipalities to create stormwater authorities, expand the scope of flood and erosion control boards, and adopt a buyer’s conveyance fee to drive investment in climate-resilient infrastructure. The bill also expands the scope of the Connecticut Green Bank, building upon its success in the clean energy sector to now also include investment in adaptation and resilience projects through the bank, a strategy that has worked well for neighboring Rhode Island.

Connecticut’s leadership on addressing climate change is central to our thriving economy and quality of life. We cannot avert natural disasters, but the steps we take now will mitigate their intensity and help protect our communities and prepare them to recover faster.

DEEP Commissioner Katie Dykes is the chair of the Governor’s Council on Climate Change and Insurance Commissioner Andrew Mais is a member of the council and co-chair of its Financing and Funding Adaptation and Resilience Working Group.

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