Tag Archives: FEMA

Biden Administration Invests $1 Billion To Protect Communities, Families, and Businesses Before Climate Disaster Strikes

Funding Builds on Efforts to Enhance Climate Change Resilience as Biden Visits FEMA Ahead of Hurricane, Wildfire Season

Superstorm Sandy decimates the community of Breezy Point, on the south shore of Long Island. President Biden is taking a whole-of-government approach to climate resilience, to mitigate the worst impacts. Resilience is a key focus of the Biden’s National Climate Task Force as they drive a number of actions to strengthen the resilience of our infrastructure, forests, coastal areas, oceans, range lands, and farm lands to drought, wildfire, heatwaves and other climate impacts. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Earlier this week, President Biden met with members of his homeland security and climate teams at the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) National Response Coordination Center in Washington, D.C. to receive an update on preparations for the 2021 hurricane season. In advance of the President’s visit, the Administration announced it will direct $1 billion for communities, states, and Tribal governments into pre-disaster mitigation resources to prepare for extreme weather events and other disasters. The Administration also announced the development of next generation climate data systems at NASA to help understand and track how climate change is impacting communities. This fact sheet was provided by the White House:
 
In 2020, the United States experienced a record year for extreme weather, including an unprecedented 30 named storms in the Atlantic Basin. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is anticipating another above-normal hurricane season this year.
 
The costs of extreme weather events, in lives and economic damage, have been staggering. Last year alone, communities across the United States suffered through 22 separate weather and climate-related disasters with loses exceeding $1 billion each, shattering previous records, at a cumulative price tag of nearly $100 billion. This year has already wrought devastation, as unusual winter storms crossed Texas and the south.
 
On May 20th, NOAA released its 2021 Atlantic hurricane season outlook. Forecasters predict a 60% chance of an above-normal season, a 30% chance of a near-normal season, and a 10% chance of a below-normal season. Additionally, forecasters expect a likely range of 13 to 20 named storms, of which six to 10 could became hurricanes.
 
As climate change threatens to bring more extreme events like increased floods, sea level rise, and intensifying droughts and wildfires, it is our responsibility to better prepare and support communities, families, and businesses before disaster – not just after. This includes investing in climate research to improve our understanding of these extreme weather events and our decision making on climate resilience, adaptation, and mitigation. It also means ensuring that communities have the resources they need to build resilience prior to these crises.
 
President Biden has elevated the importance of climate resilience on the global stage and prioritized resilience in his investment agenda, including in the American Jobs Plan and the FY22 discretionary request.
 
NEW STEPS TO ENHANCE CLIMATE RESILIENCE
 
President Biden continued to act through a whole-of-government approach in support of climate resilience goals. The Administration is directing $1 billion in pre-disaster mitigation resources to communities, and it is announcing next generation climate data systems that will help us understand and track how climate change impacts communities.

The Administration announced it will:

  • Provide $1 billion for communities through FEMA’s Pre-Disaster Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities program. FEMA will provide $1 billion in 2021 for the Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) program, a portion of which will be targeted to disadvantaged communities. BRIC supports states, local communities, tribes, and territories in undertaking pre-disaster hazard mitigation projects, reducing the risks they face from disasters and natural hazards. This level of funding level is double the amount provided last year. The program seeks to categorically shift the federal focus from reactive disaster spending and toward research-supported, proactive investment in community resilience so that when the next hurricane, flood, or wildfire comes, communities are better prepared.
     
  • Develop and launch a new NASA mission concept for an Earth System Observatory. As the number of extreme weather events increases due to climate change, the ability to forecast and monitor natural disasters is integral for the nation’s preparation, mitigation, and resilience. NASA’s Earth System Observatory will be a new architecture of advanced spaceborne Earth observation systems, providing the world with an unprecedented understanding of the critical interactions between Earth’s atmosphere, land, ocean, and ice processes. These processes determine how the changing climate will play out at regional and local levels, on near and long-term time scales.

 
CONTINUE A WHOLE-OF-GOVERNMENT APPROACH TO CLIMATE RESILIENCE
 
The action builds on the whole-of-government approach President Biden is taking to climate resilience. Resilience is a key focus area of the National Climate Task Force as they drive a number of actions to strengthen the resilience of our infrastructure, forests, coastal areas, oceans, range lands, and farm lands to drought, wildfire, heatwaves, and other climate impacts.
 
Examples of actions to date across the federal government include:

  • Issuing an Executive Order on Climate-Related Financial Risk. Last week, President Biden issued an Executive Order on Climate-Related Financial Risk that will help the American people better understand how climate change can impact their financial security. It will strengthen the U.S. financial system and it will inform concrete decisions that the federal government can take to mitigate the risks of climate change. With so much at stake, this Executive Order ensures that the right rules are in place to properly analyze and mitigate these risks. That includes disclosing these risks to the public, and empowering the American people to make informed financial decisions.
     
  • Developing agency climate adaptation and resilience plans. The Administration has taken significant steps to revitalize Federal climate adaptation and resilience by initiating the development of Agency Climate Action Plans as required by Executive Order 14008. The Plans, which are being developed by 36 agencies, broadened the scope of relevant climate adaptation and resilience experts to include acquisitions and finance professionals and focus on integrating climate information in the management of procurement, real property, public lands and water, and financial programs for climate informed decisions.
     
  • Setting a responsible flood risk standard for the federal government. Through his Executive Order on Climate-Related Financial Risk, President Biden reinstated the Federal Flood Risk Management Standard to improve the resilience of American communities and federal assets against the impacts of flood damage, which is predicted to increase over time due to the effects of climate change. The Standard requires federal agencies to consider current and future flood risk when taxpayer dollars are used to build or rebuild in floodplains. Implementing guidelines offer a toolkit of flexible and practical options to implement these protections.
     
  • Investing in resilience through the American Jobs Plan and the FY22 budget. Resilience and adaptation are critical priorities for President Biden and his administration. Americans around the country have been feeling the effect of climate change and underinvestment in resilience. Investments to make our infrastructure more resilient are a key piece of the American Jobs Plan and the President’s FY 2022 Discretionary Request. In addition to supporting the goal that every dollar spent on rebuilding our infrastructure during the Biden administration will be used to prevent, reduce and withstand the impacts of the climate crisis – the American Jobs Plan calls for $50 billion in dedicated resilience investments. The President’s FY22 Discretionary Request also includes significant budget increases to enable incorporation of climate impacts into disaster planning and projects to ensure that the Nation is rebuilding smarter and safer for the future.
     
  • Integrating resilience into the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council. The White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council (WHEJAC) was established by President Biden’s Executive Order on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad to fulfill his and Vice President Harris’s commitment to confronting longstanding environmental injustices and ensure that historically marginalized and polluted, overburdened communities have greater input on federal policies and decisions. The WHEJAC members are to provide advice and recommendations to the Environmental Justice Interagency Council and the Chair of CEQ on a whole-of-government approach to environmental justice, including, but not limited to, climate change mitigation, resilience, and disaster management.
     
  • Establishing an Interagency Working Group to better prepare and respond to drought. The National Climate Task Force, as part of its whole-of-government consideration of climate issues, established an Interagency Working Group to address worsening drought conditions in the West and to support farmers, ranchers, Tribes, and communities impacted by ongoing water shortages. The Working Group is co-chaired by the Departments of the Interior and Agriculture and will build upon existing resources to help coordinate across the federal government, working in partnership with state, local, and Tribal governments to address the needs of communities suffering from drought-related impacts. DOI and USDA have already announced more than $25 million to assist farmers, ranchers and communities in the Klamath Basin to help them in the face of a severe drought.
     
  • Increasing investments in forest restoration to reduce the threat of catastrophic wildfire. Climate change is increasing the severity and frequency of wildfire seasons, which are transforming our Nation’s forests at an unprecedented rate, and destroying homes and businesses. The Biden-Harris Administration’s discretionary budget request provides nearly $1.7 billion for high-priority hazardous fuels and forest resilience projects at a scope and scale to meet the challenge we face, an increase of $476 million over the 2021 enacted level. This funding supports the Administration’s science-based approach to vegetation management at the Forest Service and DOI to protect watersheds, wildlife habitat, and the wildland-urban interface.
     
  • Launching a resilience focused task force at the Department of the Interior. Department of the Interior (DOI) Secretary Deb Haaland announced a new Climate Task Force at DOI that will develop a strategy to reduce climate pollution; improve and increase adaptation and resilience to the impacts of climate change; address current and historic environmental injustice; protect public health; and conserve DOI managed lands. Its mission will include supporting the development and use of the best available science to evaluate the greenhouse gas emissions and associated climate change impacts of Federal land uses as well as opportunities to increase carbon sequestration; to predict the effects of climate change on public lands and land uses; and to assess and adopt measures to increase the resilience and adaptive capacity of public lands. 
     
  • Launching a new approach to climate change adaptation and resilience at the Department of Homeland Security. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas announced the launch of the DHS Climate Change Action Group, a coordinating body comprised of the Department’s senior leadership that will drive urgent action to address the climate crisis and will report directly to the Secretary. DHS also recently published a public Request for Information on how FEMA can ensure its programs advance equity and increase resilience for all – especially among those who are disproportionately at risk from the impacts of climate change.
     
  • Utilizing a Climate Assessment Tool to Analyze Climate Vulnerabilities at the Department of Defense. Climate change has been identified by the Department of Defense (DoD) as a critical national security threat and threat multiplier. As a result, DoD has undertaken assessments of the impacts that the climate crisis has on American military instillations. The DoD announced a plan to complete climate exposure assessments on all major U.S. installations within 12 months and all major installations outside the continental U.S. within 24 months using the Defense Climate Assessment Tool (DCAT). The DCAT helps identify the climate hazards to which DoD installations are most exposed, which is the first step in addressing the potential physical harm, security impacts, and degradation in readiness resulting from global climate change.
     
  • Tracking the indicators of climate change at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. For the first time in four years, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has updated and relaunched its Climate Change Indicators. This comprehensive resource presents compelling and clear evidence of changes to our climate reflected in rising temperatures, increased ocean acidity, sea level rise, and changing river flooding, droughts, heat waves, and wildfires, among other indicators. The long-overdue update to this crucial scientific resource shows that climate change has become even more evident, stronger, and extreme, and underscores the urgency for action on the climate crisis.
     
  • Releasing new U.S. Climate Normals at the NOAA. NOAA recently released the U.S. Climate Normals, a large suite of data products that provide information about typical climate conditions for thousands of locations across the United States. Normals act both as a ruler to compare today’s weather and tomorrow’s forecast, and as a predictor of conditions in the near future. These data products assist agencies and State, local, Tribal, and territorial governments, communities, and businesses in preparing for and adapting to the impacts of climate change.
     
  • Investing in grid and community resilience at the Department of Energy. The Department of Energy is investing in grid resilience and energy resilience, including microgrid strategies, through research under the Grid Modernization Initiative. In partnership with the National Laboratories, the Department is developing a set of comprehensive energy resilience metrics and modeling capabilities to mitigate climate impacts to our energy infrastructure. The Department is also investing in projects that improve community resilience by deploying energy storage and microgrid technologies. In addition, for communities across the West, the Department is working with the Western Area Power Administration and Bonneville Power Administration to aggressively forecast, model and mitigate the potential impacts of severe climate-change-related droughts and fires on electricity systems.
     
  • Building climate and resilience considerations into transportation discretionary grants at the U.S. Department of Transportation. The U.S. Department of Transportation is incorporating climate and resilience criteria into over $2 billion in discretionary grant programs, including the RAISE, INFRA, and Port Infrastructure Development grant programs. This will promote transportation investments that are future-proofed against extreme weather events. In addition, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has also issued new guidance for planning and design for highways in coastal areas.

Texas Catastrophe Points to Need to Prioritize Climate Action, Re-Prioritize Federal Budget (Mother Nature Can Be A Real Bitch)

The climate catastrophe in Texas should be a wake-up call to prod Trump Administration, Scott Pruitt of the EPA and Congress to prioritize climate action, not a border wall, in the federal budget © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

With Harvey reaping its terror and Hurricane Irma warming up for its debut, Texas’ climate catastrophe is the latest example of how tragically foolish it is to invest billions to combat ISIS (hardly an existential threat), $70 billion to build a wall along the Mexico border, $1 trillion to rebuild the nuclear weapons arsenal, yet deny the reality of climate change with the attendant costs in the multi-billions of every single one of these climate catastrophes – the cost to the Treasury and taxpayers to rebuild infrastructure, to pay for public health consequences, to lose the productivity of the workforce.

“This is the costliest and worst natural disaster in American history,” Dr. Joel N. Myers, founder, president and chairman of AccuWeather, stated. “AccuWeather has raised its estimate of the impact to the nation’s gross national produce, or GDP, to $190 billion or a full one percent, which exceeds totals of economic impact of Katrina and Sandy combined. The GDP is $19 trillion currently. Business leaders and the Federal Reserve, major banks, insurance companies, etc. should begin to factor in the negative impact this catastrophe will have on business, corporate earnings and employment. The disaster is just beginning in certain areas. Parts of Houston, the United States’ fourth largest city will be uninhabitable for weeks and possibly months due to water damage, mold, disease-ridden water and all that will follow this 1,000-year flood.”

Meanwhile, around the globe there are even greater flooding disasters –1,200 have died so far and 900,000 homes destroyed in floods in India, Nepal and Bangladesh, taking with it farms and crops that will lead to the next climate catastrophe, famine.

Now Congress will soon take up a budget that proposes to slash the EPA into nothing (Scott Pruitt has already scrubbed any research and mention of climate change from the website and is doing his level best to stop any data collection), cuts to FEMA that was already $25 billion in debt before Harvey, cuts to Health & Human Services and every other social safety net. But Trump threatens to shut down government if he doesn’t get nearly $2 billion (a downpayment on $70 billion) for his border wall with Mexico.

Dozens of Long Islanders, constituents of Congressman Peter King turned out for a rally at his Massapequa office to demand he reject cuts to the EPA budget.

Which has posed more of a national security threat to Americans? Climate disasters or ISIS? The wrong-headed approach to national security came to a head with a rally that drew about 60 people on short notice on Thursday, August 31 at the Massapequa, Long Island office of Congressman Peter King, who makes a great show of concern for protecting national security but drops the ball on the national security implications of climate change.  (See story)

You only have to compare the horrid waste of blood and treasure because of a disdain for addressing the realities of climate change to the results of the efforts of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) consisting of New York State along with eight other Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states (not New Jersey because Governor Chris Christie thought it would better position him to become the GOP presidential candidate if he withdrew from RGGI and denied the reality of climate change). Founded in 2005, the RGGI, the nation’s first program to use an innovative market-based mechanism to cap and cost-effectively reduce the carbon dioxide emissions that cause climate change, is updating its goal to lower carbon pollution by reducing the cap on power plant emissions an additional 30% below 2020 levels by 2030. With this change, the regional cap in 2030 will be 65% below the 2009 starting level.

RGGI has already contributed to a 50% percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from affected power plants in New York, and a 90% reduction in coal-fired power generation in the state. To date, New York has generated more than $1 billion in RGGI proceeds, which are applied to fund energy efficiency, clean energy and emission reduction programs.

RGGI continues to exceed expectations and has provided more than $2 billion in regional economic benefits and $5.7 billion in public health benefits while reducing emissions in excess of the declining cap’s requirements. Analysis by Abt Associates – found participating member states had 16,000 avoided respiratory illnesses, as many as 390 avoided heart attacks, and 300 to 830 avoided deaths by reducing pollution. The health benefits in New York alone are estimated to have exceeded $1.7 billion in avoided costs and other economic benefits.

And contrary to the lie that clean, renewable energy and sustainable development will hurt the economy and increase consumer costs, the economies of RGGI states are outpacing the rest of the country and regional electricity prices have fallen even as prices in other states have increased. So even as the RGGI states reduced their carbon emissions by 16% more than other states, they are experiencing 3.6% more in economic growth. Each of the three-year control periods contributed approximately 4,500 job years to New York’s economy and 14,000 to 16,000 job years region-wide.

Meanwhile, New York consumers who have participated in RGGI-supported projects through December 2016 will realize $3.7 billion in cumulative energy bill savings over the lifetime of the projects, according to New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA).

New York is actively promoting clean energy innovation through its Reforming the Energy Vision strategy and initiatives. Additionally, programs including the Clean Energy Fund, $1 billion NY-Sun Initiative, $1 billion NY Green Bank, $40 million NY-Prize competition for community microgrids, and others, ensure that progress toward reducing emissions will be accelerated.

New York has devised a host of programs to incentivize local projects aimed at developing clean, renewable energy and sustainability. Most recently, NYSERDA has developed a Solar PILOT Toolkit to assist municipalities in negotiating payment-in-lieu-of taxes (PILOT) agreements for solar projects larger than 1 MW, including community solar projects.

How ironic is the climate catastrophe in Texas, the leading proponent of fossil fuels and opponent of programs incentivizing the transition to clean, renewable energy (and the localized independence that wind, solar and geothermal bring), that Harvey has damaged its oil refining infrastructure, which is already resulting in higher gas prices, not to mention taxpayer money that will be channeled to rebuild the devastation. None of those private, profit-making companies which have gouged and inflicted public health horrors should get funding from taxpayers.

Now Texas will be coming to Congress for billions in aid.

Congress should pass a law: no federal help for states that deny climate change (Florida and North Carolina actually have legislation banning the use of the term) and therefore do nothing to mitigate the consequences, and which deny altogether the concept of a federal, “one nation” government to collect taxes and provide services on behalf of all. Texas, which has cheered the notion of secession, continually supports policies intended to shrink the federal government to a size it can be flushed down a toilet, including dismantling the Environmental Protection Administration and ending environmental regulations. So let them see what that actually means. Let’s also be reminded the Texas’ Republican delegation obstructed federal aid to New York and New Jersey after Superstorm Sandy.

Destruction at Breezy Point, New York after Superstorm Sandy in 2012. Texas Congressmen voted against giving aid, now will seek tens of billions to rebuild after Harvey. But the Trump Administration and Congress fail to learn the lessons, reflected in policy and budgeting, that would mitigate such costly climate catastrophes © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Too harsh? The climate deniers are dooming the entire nation and the planet to such tragic, devastating and costly climate catastrophes. Hundreds of thousands of Texans will emerge from Harvey with their homes, retirement, college funds decimated, very possibly their jobs flushed away along with the floodwaters. Tens of thousands will become climate refugees – just a small fraction of the estimated 200 million worldwide who will be forced to flee flooded coasts as sea levels continue to rise, and storms continue to ravage.

But, since Trump is so keen to dish out taxpayer billions to those he considers his base (one wonders what would happen if and when California is hit with an earthquake), Congress should impose conditions on the billions that will be sent to Texas to rebuild its infrastructure and housing: Texas should do what every other community has done that underwent such devastation: rebuild and transition to clean, renewable energy sources and sustainable, climate-friendly, low-carbon emitting structures.

Congress, which Trump just dared to defy on his tax “reform” (that is, giveaway to the wealthiest 1% and corporations while starving federal government of funding), should make sure that EPA has the people and resources it needs, that climate action is a priority, that the Interior Department does not give away Americans’ legacy (and property) for environment-destroying development, that FEMA and Housing & Human Services (now in the command of a man who dismisses poverty and bad things that happen to some dereliction of personal responsibility) are properly funded and staffed.

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© 2017 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin