New Obama order aims to prepare communities for severe weather

WASHINGTON Fri Nov 1, 2013 3:10pm EDT

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at the SelectUSA 2013 Investment Summit in Washington October 31, 2013. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at the SelectUSA 2013 Investment Summit in Washington October 31, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - In another move to address the impact of climate change, President Barack Obama ordered a bipartisan task force on Friday to help U.S. communities brace for longer heat waves, heavier downpours, more severe wildfires and worse droughts.

Friday's executive order set up a panel of governors, mayors, county officials and tribal leaders to advise the White House on how the federal government can respond to communities hit by the effects of a changing climate.

Federal agencies were also directed to modernize their programs in ways that will support investments that will help cities and towns gird against extreme weather. More than two dozen agencies will form a council on climate preparedness.

Because no federal legislation to curb climate-warming greenhouse gas emissions is likely to get through Congress due to widespread Republican opposition, the president has been using his executive authority as an alternative to new laws.

Friday's White House order builds on a Climate Action Plan unveiled in June, the centerpiece of which was new regulations to be applied to power plants, and comes three days after the anniversary of the landfall of Superstorm Sandy, which caused more than $60 billion in damage along the U.S. Atlantic coast.

Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz on Friday cited the damage caused by Sandy as a "stark reminder of how disruptions to our nation's critical infrastructure have far-reaching economic, health, safety and security impacts."

The task force is to report to the White House within a year on how the government can best "remove barriers, create incentives and otherwise modernize federal programs to encourage investments, practices and partnerships that facilitate increased resilience to climate impacts, including those associated with extreme weather."

No new federal funds were offered to support the task force.

Eight Democratic but no Republican governors are on the bipartisan panel, even though some of the states hardest hit by extreme weather conditions, including New Jersey, Florida, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas, are governed by Republicans.

States like Florida and Texas face acute financial exposure from extreme weather and climate-related events, according to a report this week by Ceres, a coalition of investors, companies and public interest groups that advocates for sustainable business practices.

Extreme weather events in 2012 cost U.S. taxpayers more than $300 apiece, or $100 billion in total, most of it to pay for federal crop, flood, wildfire and disaster relief, Ceres President Mindy Lubber said in a statement.

Daniel Weiss, a climate strategy expert at the Center for American Progress, said the task force should assess future costs to make communities better prepared and less vulnerable to extreme weather.

"This bipartisan group of state and local officials could be persuasive advocates to an otherwise recalcitrant Congress that federal investments in community resilience will reduce spending on disaster recovery," Weiss told Reuters.

The progressive think tank estimates that in fiscal 2011-2013, the U.S. government spent $6 on disaster recovery for every dollar on community preparedness.

A fact sheet on the new task force is available here

Separately on Friday, the Environmental Protection Agency released its draft climate change adaptation plan and called for public review and comment.

"EPA must help communities adapt to a changing climate," said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. "These implementation plans offer a roadmap."

(Editing by Ros Krasny and Philip Barbara)

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Comments (7)
Some are under the impression that if you just believe hard enough, the effects of climate change will simply go away. So let’s put all of our eggs in that basket.

Sensible, yeah? I mean, why listen to the warnings of 99% of scientists from all over the world? After all, science was invented by the devil to trick people into not believing in Jesus.

Nov 01, 2013 5:47pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
TheNewWorld wrote:
@USofRationality

Hurricanes, Tornadoes, Typhoons, Earthquakes, etc. etc. Have existed since the recorded history of man. You know the coldest year in American history was back when the country founded. Climate change has always happened. The opposite, climate stasis, has never existed in the history of the planet.

I am old enough to remember all the “experts” in the 60s and 70s stating we were heading into the next ice age. I am old enough to remember the leader of the global warming crew stating the brooklyn bridge would be under water by 2010. If your solution to the problems involves a tax, you are a liar and you are not concerned about the planet. The problem with the world is over population. If you cut the population in half, you get half the energy requirements, and half the carbon pollution, half the oil drilling, coal mining, etc. But no. The solution is to allow people to pollute as much as they want, as long as they pay taxes.

That my friend is a transfer of wealth, and nothing more. And 99% of the scientists in the world do not agree with the theory of man made climate change, or the current climate change/global warming/global cooling crew. It is a very minor number of scientists. Climatology is not the whole of science on the planet. A year ago NASA announced that all of their models were wrong because they underestimated how much heat the earth’s atmosphere releases.

Beyond that 2012 and 2013 was the peak of solar flare activity. That is why it changed from global warming to climate change. The earth is going to cool over the next 10 years. Watch it.

Nov 02, 2013 2:20am EDT  --  Report as abuse
AZreb wrote:
How can this panel be “bipartisan” when there are no Republicans on it? More “government speak”. Looks like Florida, Texas, Arizona and other states are on their own, which might not be a bad thing since those states know what is best since they live it and not just talk it to death.

Nov 02, 2013 11:03am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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