This year is on pace to become the third consecutive hottest year on record – which would result in 16 of the 17 hottest years ever observed occurring since 2001. Scientists found recent floods in Louisiana to be 40 percent more likely to occur and at least 10 percent more intense today compared to 1900 due to climate change. And sea level rise and record warm ocean temperatures amplified coastal flooding and rainfall associated with Hurricane Matthew, which devastated the southeast U.S. coast, Haiti, Cuba and the Bahamas.
At the same time, presidential campaigns have discussed the need to address the nation’s crumbling infrastructure and strengthen the economy. When combining these needs with the increasingly costly impacts of extreme weather, there is a clear signal that climate resilience needs to be incorporated into all future investments, decisions and planning.
A White House report released today makes clear that the Obama administration has already taken some of this action, and identifies key opportunities for the next administration to build on progress made.
Achievements in Climate Resilience
The report highlights actions taken by this administration that have helped build resilience in the United States, such as:
Launching Resilience AmeriCorps, an interagency program that helps low-income communities build capacity for climate resilience planning and implementation;
Promoting public safety, a stronger economy and national security through an executive order directing federal agencies to enhance the resilience of federal buildings and lands to wildfire; and
Reducing the exposure of communities to the impacts of drought through the Presidential Memorandum, Building National Capabilities for Long-Term Drought Resilience, which among other things helps ensure better coordination of federal support for drought-related initiatives by institutionalizing the National Drought Resilience Partnerships.
Action Items for the Next Administration
It also outlines three key themes of opportunities the next administration—as well as leaders in the private sector and policy makers at all levels of government–can utilize to create a more resilient America. Themes closely align with what WRI has been hearing from local elected officials across the country over the last several years through our engagement around resilience:
1. Advancing and applying science-based information, technology and tools to address climate risk.
The federal government could achieve this by helping communities better understand the economics of climate change and enhancing usability of climate tools for decision makers.
2. Integrating climate resilience into federal agency missions, operations and culture.
Federal opportunities include strengthening resilience coordination across federal agencies. Conserving and restoring ecosystems can also enhance resilience.
3. Supporting community efforts to enhance climate resilience.
Opportunities include enhancing place-based approaches to climate resilience. The federal government could also help communities better integrate resilience into health and social-service delivery.
Soon-to-be-released WRI research will also highlight key federal policy changes to better support local climate resilience.
Despite one of the most contentious political seasons, it seems all of us should be able to agree on the need for common-sense policies that fortify and protect our cities, coastlines and economy against current and future climate impacts. The report released today by the White House provides a blueprint of how we can best ensure America is equipped to handle these growing threats.