Speaking at the final meeting of the White House State, Local, and Tribal Leaders Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience, President Obama on Wednesday announced a broad package of measures to increase the country’s capacity to cope with climate change.
The bulk of the funding announced Wednesday will go toward strengthening rural power grids in eight states. The Department of Agriculture is awarding $236.3 million in grants for projects that will make the electricity infrastructure in these regions more resistant against extreme weather and better able to cope with surges in demand.
“Climate change poses a direct threat to the infrastructure of America that we need to stay competitive in this 21st century economy,” Obama said at the meeting. “We should see this as an opportunity to do what we should be doing anyway, and that’s modernizing our infrastructure and…making sure that they’re more resilient.”
An additional $13 million will be allocated to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) for the development of detailed national 3-D maps. The maps will help better predict flood and landslide risk as well as hotspots for coastal erosion and can be used to identify optimal locations for wind and solar farms.
Obama also announced $10 million to help the nation’s Native American tribes adapt to climate change. The funding will go toward the development of climate-adaptation training programs, vulnerability assessment and monitoring, climate-resilience planning, and youth education programs.
“Impacts of climate change are increasingly evident for American Indian and Alaska Native communities and, in some cases, threaten the ability of tribal nations to carry on their cultural traditions and beliefs,” said Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs Kevin Washburn. “We have heard directly from tribes about climate change and how it dramatically affects their communities, many of which face extreme poverty as well as economic development and infrastructure challenges. These impacts test their ability to protect and preserve their land and water for future generations.”
In a recent article, Indian Country Today listed nine tribes which have already been severely impacted by climate change. These tribes include the Navajo Nation and the Hoopa Valley Tribe of northwestern California, which have both been hit hard by the prolonged drought in the region. The Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation of California declared a drought emergency in April.
Sea level rise is also eating away at the precious land set aside for many coastal tribes. The Biloxi-Chitimacha Tribe of Louisiana for example are contemplating a move as their island home goes the way of the rapidly eroding Louisiana coastline. Meanwhile, the Quileute tribe of western Washington are being squeezed between the Pacific Ocean and the Olympic National Forest as the ocean claims more and more of their land.
Along with the funding announcements, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a new guide, “Assessing Health Vulnerability to Climate Change,” designed to help local and state health departments prepare for the myriad public health threats brought about by climate change.
In 2006, the CDC established its Climate-Ready State and Cities Initiative, which provides grant funding and other resources to help state health departments develop projections of how each state’s climate and weather patterns will change with increasing temperatures in order to prepare for the possible health impacts. Just 16 states and two cities are currently part of the program and money is tight.