During a tour of drought-stricken California on Friday, President Obama will ask Congress to establish a $1 billion Climate Resilience Fund, Politico reports.
The proposal will be included in Obama’s 2015 budget, scheduled to be released next month. The fund is separate from the President’s broader climate action plan, in that it does not rely exclusively on executive authority and must be passed by Congress. Its goal will be to drive new technologies and forms of infrastructure to prepare for increased extreme weather and the other effects of climate change, to aid communities preparing for those challenges, and to add to the ongoing research into climate change’s impacts.
The Center for American Progress proposed a similar effort last year, modeled on efforts in New Jersey and New York City. “We must increase the federal investment in community resilience to reduce fatalities and the economic damage wrought by extreme weather events,” the paper argued.
“Recent events have reinforced our knowledge that our communities and economy remain vulnerable to extreme weather and natural hazards,” the White House said in a statement on Thursday.
That Obama will make the announcement today in California is appropriate, as the state has been wracked by massive droughts for the last few years. While no one weather event can be tied directly to climate change — just as no one home run can be tied directly to steroid use — the shifting climate patterns driven by global warming drive up the overall odds of extreme weather events.
For instance, higher temperatures generally mean faster evaporation and drier conditions. The ensuing climate change from global warming also shifts rainfall patterns, leading to longer dry spells interspersed with heavier deluges that arrive so quickly the ground is unable to soak up the water. Those effects are also reducing snowpack in California more and more, threatening the state’s freshwater supplies.
The White House, for it’s part, used the resilience fund to get explicit about the connection between climate change and the droughts that have plagued the American West. “We really understand a number of the reasons that global climate change is increasing the intensity and the frequency and the life of drought in drought-prone regions,” John Holdren, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, told reporters Thursday night. “This is one of the better-understood dimensions of the relationship between global climate change and extreme weather in particular regions.”
White House spokesman Matt Lehrich told also told Politico that Obama “is going to continue to make the case that climate change is already hurting Americans around the country and that it will only get worse for our children and grandchildren if we leave it for future generations to deal with.”
Politico went on to characterize $1 billion as “a high figure” that is “not likely to attract widespread Republican backing.” While the latter point may be true, discretionary spending alone for 2014 was just over $1 trillion. The resilience fund would cost 0.1 percent of that.
The Obama Administration will also announce $15 million in conservation assistance for the areas hit the hardest by the drought, $5 million in “emergency watershed protection” aimed at protecting vulnerable soil in California, as well as other efforts to combat the drought throughout the state.
And earlier this month, the White House unveiled a series of seven climate hubs throughout the country to boost research, information sharing, and use of best practices, especially in agriculture. One of three “sub-hubs” will be located in Davis, California, and will be devoted to specialty crops and work on southwestern forests.