Report: Building resilience to climate-fueled extreme weather is ‘woefully underfunded’

CAP, citing Federal Emergency Management Agency estimates, notes that for every $1 invested in “pre-disaster” mitigation, the cost of damage from extreme weather is reduced by $4.

The report, which tallies programs across the government, finds that the federal government spent $22 billion on resilience efforts between fiscal 2011 and 2013, compared to $136 billion on disaster relief during the same period.

“Revenue that should be targeted to resilience is too often diverted to disaster recovery or falls victim to shortsighted austerity measures such as the budget sequester. The federal government could save additional lives and money by increasing assistance to communities to help them address their resilience needs,” states the report.

“To that end, we recommend the creation of a dedicated fund for community resilience with annual revenue equal to one-third of the total federal disaster relief and recovery spending from the previous three years,” it adds.

The report – which is titled “Pound Foolish: Federal Community-Resilience Investments Swamped by Disaster Damages” – estimates that applying that formula to fiscal 2013, the amount earmarked for a resilience fund would have been $7 billion.

Elsewhere, the report calls for an “annual and complete accounting of federal funds spent on every disaster-recovery program in the previous fiscal year.”

“Such an accounting would enable public officials and everyday citizens to better understand the true cost to taxpayers of unchecked extreme weather,” the report states.

It says that another key reform would be to “ensure that future rebuilding paid for with federal recovery funds increases community resilience to future extreme weather, even if the new structures are more costly.”

The report arrives as efforts to harden communities against extreme weather are attracting increased attention in the wake of last year’s Hurricane Sandy.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg on June 11 proposed a $20 billion plan – paid in part with federal aid – to defend the city against future storms through floodwalls, reinforced dunes and other coastal protections, stronger building codes and many, many other steps.

The CAP report also notes that New Jersey is investing a significant portions of its federal aid in response to Sandy on resilience efforts.

“Unlike New York City and New Jersey, many communities lack the financial resources to become more resilient to future extreme weather events, and the federal government woefully underfunds such resilience needs,” the report states.

This post was updated at 10:22 a.m.