FEMA Administrator On Climate Change: ‘We Need To Forcefully Communicate The Risk We Face’

Our guest blogger is Tina Ramos, an Energy Research Associate at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

FEMA Administrator W. Craig Fugate

Today, FEMA Administrator and former Director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management Craig Fugate reminded us that climate change and its effects are actually something that we must consider and plan for now, because the threats are not going away no matter how hard the GOP tries to convince us that they aren’t real.

“We don’t do a good job of communicating what we know [about how climate change will affect our communities],” said Administrator Fugate during the National Leadership Speaker Series on Resilience and Security in the 21st Century hosted by the U.S. Green Building Council and Local Governments for Sustainability (ICLEI) at the National Press Club this afternoon.

When I talk about climate resilience, I’m talking about how we need to forcefully communicate the risk we face in not building resilience to climate change at the local level, which might not have been in anyone’s experience previously.

The administrator stressed the importance of recognizing “total cost of ownership” in decision making that affects our nation’s and our communities’ futures. “People are starting to get a better sense of what total cost of ownership is. When you buy a car now, you don’t just ask how much it costs. You ask how many miles to the gallon the car gets.” You look at how present decisions have future consequences on your pocketbook and well-being.

The Administrator went on to explain that ignoring the current and future effects of climate change means not incorporating the true total cost in our decisions. “I owe you $18 billion,” he said. “The National Flood Insurance Program is underwritten by the taxpayers – did you know that? $18 billion was the money spent [on emergency services] during the hurricane season in 2005 alone,” when he was Director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management.

“We cannot afford to continue to respond to disasters and deal with the consequences under the current model,” he warned. “Risk that is not mitigated, that is not considered in return on investment calculations, oftentime steps up false economies. We will reach a point where we can no longer subsidize this.”

Tea Party conspiracy theorists have decided that ICLEI’s support for climate resilience is part of an eco-Marxist United Nations plot to build a one-world government.

Ignoring the effects of climate change — until disaster has already happened and we are forced to clean up the mess on an emergency footing — is not a sustainable strategy. If lawmakers in Washington actually intend to make the fiscally responsible decisions they preach about, then they will follow the administrator’s warning and immediately develop a national strategy that at once mitigates the negative effects of climate change and begins to build resilience on the local level. Investing in climate resilience means reducing pollution and preparing for its unavoidable effects. Failure to act now will be paid for in ever-increasing amounts of America’s blood and treasure.

Download the Green Building & Climate Resilience report by the US Green Building Council and ICLEI.

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