Federal Budget Antics Threaten Safety of Communities, Raise Costs
Even climate change skeptics may agree that the weather is changing. Just this spring and summer, a tornado outbreak in Alabama tore through the state and destroyed homes; an unprecedented heat wave and drought smothered Oklahoma with 32 consecutive days of temperatures above 100 degrees, and contributed to the state’s sixth heat-related death reported earlier this week; and the US Department of Agriculture declared the drought in Texas a natural disaster, due to the devastation it has caused for farmers and ranchers.
The weather is hotter and more severe, and Americans are paying for it with their lives and their life-savings.
The frequency and intensity of storms, droughts, and other severe weather patterns is increasing and underscores the need for all communities to cope with, build resilience to, and generally be prepared for a changing climate (often called “climate change adaptation”). Many federal agencies, including The Department of Interior and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), have programs in place to safeguard people and wildlife from the impacts of climate change, including changes in weather patterns, which deliver not only environmental benefits, but also long-term cost savings to every American.
However, Congressional leaders in the House have used the Federal Appropriations debates to strip funding from programs designed to protect and prepare communities from the impacts of severe weather, including a rider that would block the EPA’s ability to fund anti-disaster preparedness programs that provide crucial storm-protection services, block the Interior Department from preparing land areas from flooding, fires, and droughts, and limit the Forest Service’s ability to prevent and respond to forest fires. Another rider that already passed would prevent the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) from implementing its climate adaptation task force and from making any preparations to protect citizens from the impacts of climate change which will have far-reaching impacts because the U.S. Coast Guard and FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) fall under the DHS umbrella.
Scientists at Stanford University recently made the direct link between climate change and the intensity of hot weather that is now the “new normal” for American communities, and increased temperatures can be correlated to more unpredictable and severe weather patterns, like hurricanes. Already, steep cuts have been proposed to the entire Department of Interior and the EPA, and more anti-climate riders and amendments could follow before the bill passes.
We know that the protections and climate change planning activities we have now are not enough –
How much additional risk can Americans afford?