If we really want to get ahead of the curve of ever-steepening climate impacts, it’s not enough to do a one-off resilience bill every five years. We need to start weaving resilience measures into every single dollar that governments spend on infrastructure. — Rob Moore, a senior policy analyst with the Natural Resources Defense Council
If we really want to get ahead of the curve of ever-steepening climate impacts, it’s not enough to do a one-off resilience bill every five years. We need to start weaving resilience measures into every single dollar that governments spend on infrastructure. — Rob Moore, a senior policy analyst with the Natural Resources Defense Council

We’re not even ready for the disasters that are coming at us now. And there’s just no way we’re going to be able to get ahead of what’s coming in the future unless we can get our emissions and climate change in check. — Rachel Cleetus, climate policy director at the Union of Concerned Scientists
We’re not even ready for the disasters that are coming at us now. And there’s just no way we’re going to be able to get ahead of what’s coming in the future unless we can get our emissions and climate change in check. — Rachel Cleetus, climate policy director at the Union of Concerned Scientists

After a Summer of Disasters, Some Lawmakers See a Chance for Climate Action
As the country reels from the cascade of deaths and devastation wrought by this summer’s record floods, heat waves, droughts and wildfires, President Biden and progressive Democrats are using the moment to push for aggressive climate provisions in a sweeping $3.5 trillion budget bill.

Speaking on Thursday in Queens, where nearly a dozen people died a day earlier during flash floods, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the majority leader, said that when the Senate returned to Washington on Tuesday to continue work on budget legislation, it would include provisions designed to reduce fossil fuel emissions linked to extreme weather.

Congress is also considering a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill that includes money to help communities gird against climate disasters. The Senate passed the bill last month and the House is expected to vote on it by late September.

That legislation includes $47 billion over five years in funding to improve the nation’s flood defenses, limit damage from wildfires, develop new sources of drinking water in areas plagued by drought and relocate some communities away from risky areas. It also contains $27 billion in spending to help harden electric grids against extreme weather events that are causing more frequent blackouts.

Mr. Schumer said the infrastructure and budget bills were paramount to prepare communities for more powerful storms, fires, droughts and floods and to stop the pollution that would heat the planet further and lead to even more extreme weather.

“Global warming is upon us, and it’s going to get worse and worse and worse unless we do something about it, and that’s why it’s so imperative to pass the two bills, the infrastructure bill, and the budget reconciliation bill,” he said.

... The budget bill will include a potent tool to cut greenhouse gas emissions — an incentive program designed to replace most of the nation’s coal and gas-fired power plants over the next decade with wind, solar and nuclear plants. It would be the strongest policy to fight climate change enacted by the United States.

... Senator Tina Smith, Democrat of Minnesota, the chief author of the power plant provision, said she believed that the extreme weather that has so recently scorched, deluged and destroyed so many regions of the country would make it harder in the next two weeks for any Democrat to justify cutting it.

“For the last couple of days this part of the state has been in one of the most extreme droughts that we’ve seen in a generation,” said Ms. Smith, who spoke by telephone from Minnesota. “I spent yesterday talking with cattle producers, they are liquidating their herds way earlier than they would have. They don’t have the feed and forage to keep their herds together. And I can’t believe I’m the only senator hearing about this while I’m home, when you think about the reach of extreme weather across the country. And I think that dynamic is shaping the negotiations.”

... While efforts to reduce emissions remain contentious, there is a broader consensus around the need to prepare communities for the impacts of extreme weather. Few corners of the country have been left unscathed by the string of disasters this summer: Overflowing rivers in Tennessee, a hurricane in Louisiana, a deadly heat wave in the Pacific Northwest and floods in New York City.

The infrastructure bill approved by the Senate would mark a large shift in the federal government’s approach to extreme weather events. Rather than simply paying to rebuild communities after disasters, the bill would provide the largest single infusion of federal money ever to prepare states and cities for future climate impacts ahead of time.

For instance, the Department of Transportation would get $8.7 billion to help states address future climate risks to their roads and transit systems. Much of the nation’s infrastructure was designed to handle weather conditions of the past, which are becoming increasingly obsolete as the planet warms. This week, New York City’s subway, parts of which were designed a century ago, was paralyzed after a storm poured huge amounts of water into stations and tunnels.

Many of those provisions have drawn support from Republicans, including those who have dismissed the threat of climate change in the past. In an interview with CNBC this week, Senator Bill Cassidy, a Louisiana Republican, urged his party to rally around the infrastructure bill after Hurricane Ida left a trail of destruction in his state.

“If we are going to make our country more resilient to natural disasters wherever they are, we have to start preparing now,” Mr. Cassidy said. “I’m sure hoping that Republicans look around my state, see this damage and say, ‘If there’s money for resiliency, money to harden the grid, money to help sewer and water, then maybe this is something we should be for.’”

But while climate experts praised many of the resilience measures in the bill, they cautioned that it quite likely wouldn’t be enough, as the nation’s needs are certain to grow as climate change fuels increasingly severe storms, floods, wildfires and droughts. In 2018, the federal government’s National Climate Assessment estimated that adapting to climate change could ultimately cost “tens to hundreds of billions of dollars per year.”

“If we really want to get ahead of the curve of ever-steepening climate impacts, it’s not enough to do a one-off resilience bill every five years,” said Rob Moore, a senior policy analyst with the Natural Resources Defense Council. “We need to start weaving resilience measures into every single dollar that governments spend on infrastructure.” ... But even if adaptation measures garner wide bipartisan support, some experts warn that they could soon reach their limit unless nations like the United States rapidly reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and slow the pace of global warming.

“We’re not even ready for the disasters that are coming at us now,” said Rachel Cleetus, climate policy director at the Union of Concerned Scientists. “And there’s just no way we’re going to be able to get ahead of what’s coming in the future unless we can get our emissions and climate change in check.”
Read the full article: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/09/03/climate/climate-disasters-congress-resilience.html