President Obama signed an executive order this morning aimed at making it easier for states and communities to prepare for climate change and the droughts, floods and extreme storms that are likely to come with it.
The order, which is part of the president’s climate action plan, will encourage local planners to take the future effects of climate change into account when spending federal money to build infrastructure. The order will also set up the Council on Climate Preparedness and Resilience, a task force of city and state leaders that will advise the federal government on how they can better support climate resiliency. Eight governors have joined the task force, along with 16 mayors and commissioners and two tribal leaders. Most of the task force are Democrats, but the Republican governor of Guam and three Republican mayors have also signed on.
“We really do need to hear directly from the communities and from those who are sort of on the front lines of dealing with the impacts of climate change,” Nancy Sutley, Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, told the New York Times.
The order plans to: identify and remove barriers to climate resilience, such as policies that encourage states and communities to rebuild to previous standards after a disaster, instead of adopting stronger standards; evaluate how to better use and protect natural storm barriers such as wetlands and dunes; make scientific data and tools for climate preparedness readily available to states and cities; and build on the climate adaptation plans for federal agencies that were released earlier this year.
This month, the Center for American Progress released a report with five recommendations for the climate resilience task force, including determining the annual cost of federal disaster relief by state and finding sources of funding for federal investments in resilience. The report notes that every $1 spent on community resilience reduces disaster costs by $4. From fiscal year 2011 to 2013, American taxpayers spent nearly $6 in disaster cleanup and recovery for every $1 spent in community resilience.
Cities and states have been ramping up climate preparation efforts in the wake of Superstorm Sandy and other extreme weather events. Boston is considering making it mandatory for developers to fill out a climate resilience checklist before they construct large new buildings, and New York City, Houston and Los Angeles are also implementing climate resiliency plans. With the president’s new executive order, the hope is that more cities and states will begin taking climate preparation seriously.