April 4, 2019 / 9:43 PM / 2 months ago

Disbanded by Trump, defiant climate committee moves to aid cities, states

NEW YORK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - An advisory committee on climate change that was dissolved under U.S. President Donald Trump and then launched anew as an independent entity announced plans on Thursday to begin working with governments nationwide to speed up climate action.

Experts with the Science for Climate Action Network (SCAN) will help urban planners better understand climate science and find concrete ways to cut climate-changing emissions and protect their cities and states, organizers said.

“We need to reinforce the people who are ... in government trying to do this work,” said Richard Moss, who chairs the group of SCAN experts and also headed the body’s government predecessor.

That group, the Advisory Committee for the Sustained National Climate Assessment, was tasked with helping turn federally supported climate science into practical advice and action.

Established under President Barack Obama, its mandate expired in 2017, after Trump took office.

“My understanding is it was dissolved by the Trump administration,” said Jordan Levine, deputy communications director for energy and environment with the office of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.

New York state authorities, Columbia University and the American Meteorological Society revived the entity - which retains 11 of its original 15 members - last year with initial funding, Moss said.

“The federal government continues to deny climate change and ignore the dire need to strengthen the resilience of our communities,” Cuomo said in a statement at SCAN’s launch.

SCAN aims to translate into smart planning the findings of a landmark government report, released in November, that outlined the projected impact of global warming on every corner of American society.

The congressionally-mandated report - dismissed as inaccurate by Trump’s White House - said climate change will cost the U.S. economy hundreds of billions of dollars by the end of the century, hitting everything from health to infrastructure.

But urban planners now need help translating the dense, more than 1,500-page document into policy, Moss said.

As they try to prepare for coming threats, mid-size and small cities - and poorer ones in particular - risk getting lost in a maze of databases, unlike larger ones staffed with specialists are able to take more informed decisions on things like fending off worsening floods and hurricanes.

“What we’re determined to help them figure out is, in the context of what they’re already doing, how can they use climate information to make a better decision?” Moss asked.

SCAN will give planners and other officials advice, for instance, on how to make their infrastructure, from ponds to parks, resilient to risks such as wildfire or flooding, he said.

Reporting by Sebastien Malo @sebastienmalo, Editing by Laurie Goering. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers climate change, humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking and property rights. Visit news.trust.org/climate

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