Flooding worsened by climate change could put the finances of cities and towns across the country underwater. Data released last week by the climate research firm First Street Foundation showed about one-quarter of all U.S. infrastructure is at risk of serious flooding, and that could have major implications for the $4 trillion municipal bond market, the Financial Times reports. The risk is a one-two-three punch for cities and towns — and those in West Virginia face some of the worst flooding risks — as worsening floods drain public coffers and the increasing prospect of future flooding makes borrowing more expensive. Finally, climate-fueled disasters can push people to move away from the most affected areas, reducing municipalities’ tax base.
“It is clear (climate) is a risk factor,” Peter DeGroot, head of municipal bond research at JPMorgan. “The increasing frequency and intensity of weather events is a costly and complex issue for the federal government — and for state and local governments as well.”
The flooding, and its impacts on municipal finances represent the present cost of the ongoing failure to confront the climate crisis. “I think we have substantially underinvested in climate action for a very long time,” Bob Kopp, a professor at Rutgers University, told the Washington Post. “The longer we wait, the more damages we’ll have to deal with, and the more costly it will be to lower our emissions in a way that avoids future damages.” (Municipal finances: FT $; Cost of inaction: Washington Post $)