This summer shows America must prioritize climate resilience

September 8, 2022

The Inflation Reduction Act is the biggest investment in climate action yet, but the U.S. still does not have a national adaptation plan. Congressman Peters’ Climate Adaptation Resilience Strategy Act will establish a strategy to prepare for extreme heat and other effects of climate change.

Read more about it in this August 22nd piece from The Hill, posted below:

This summer shows America must prioritize climate resilience

By Alice Hill and Forbes Tompkins

August 22, 2022

This has been the summer of scorching heat and excessive floods.

Texas cities saw melted roads, burst pipes and trains delayed to avoid derailment. Extreme heat killed 2,000 cattle in a feedlot in Kansas. In July alone, temperatures met or smashed heat records in at least 43 locations across the country.

Beyond record-breaking heat, wildfires have burned 5.6 million acres nationwide — an area larger than New Jersey. And the American West continues to suffer through its worst drought in 1,200 years. Reduced water supplies cut hydropower and forced Southern California authorities to restrict water usage for 6 million people. Meanwhile, extreme rain in Kentucky caused flash flooding that killed more than three dozen people. In Montana, flooding washed away an iconic road in Yellowstone National Park, and in normally bone-dry Death Valley, rains forced the national park to close.

Some call these increasingly dangerous climate change events “the new normal.” A “Washington Post” analysis found that more than 40 percent of Americans live in counties that were hit by climate-related extremes in 2021. But scientists warn that worse events lie ahead — even if we cut greenhouse gas emissions to zero today.

Although President Joe Biden has signed the largest climate bill in U.S. history, neither that legislation nor the infrastructure bill passed last fall address a critical failing in U.S. climate efforts: the lack of a national plan for adapting to the extreme heat and other effects of climate change — all of which are expected to worsen in the years ahead. Without a plan, we risk wasting taxpayer money while also failing to invest in resilience measures that can save lives, livelihoods and communities. However, the bipartisan National Climate Adaptation Resilience Strategy (NCARS) Act— introduced by Sens. Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and U.S. Reps. Scott Peters (D-Calif.) and María Salazar (R-Fla.) — offers a way forward.

The NCARS Act will establish clear federal strategic priorities, identify the roles and responsibilities of essential federal agencies, prioritize investments, establish metrics to measure progress and create pathways for coordinating adaptation efforts across all levels of government and the private sector.

Other nations have already developed national adaptation plans. The Netherlands began active adaptation planning in 2007 and is currently building flood defenses that can withstand a 1-in-10,000-year flood. China updated its 2013 national adaptation strategy earlier this year. Aiming to create a climate-resilient society by 2035, China is constructing the world’s largest water transfer system designed to bring water from its wet south to its dry north. Germany created its plan in 2008, Japan in 2015 and Russia in 2020. New Zealand just released a national adaptation plan, and Canada is crafting its own.

Today, at least 38 developing countries have climate adaptation plans to help unify national preparation efforts for current and future impacts — but not the United States.

That can change with the passage of the NCARS Act, which holds great promise for improving this country’s resilience to current and future disasters. The bill creates a chief resilience officer (CRO) in the White House to lead the effort, serving as the federal point person for increasing resilience throughout the U.S. The CRO would oversee the development of a national adaptation strategy, a concurrent implementation plan within two years of enactment and the publication of a report every three years detailing federal resilience operations. In addition, the CRO would coordinate adaptation and resilience initiatives in federal agencies while serving as a counterpart for the growing number of states throughout the political and geographic spectrum that have appointed CROs in recent years, including Louisiana, West Virginia, South Carolina and New Jersey. The CRO would also identify program gaps and redundancies as well as look for opportunities to harmonize federal programs and policies that too often remain siloed and difficult — if not impossible — for state, local, and private sector partners to navigate.

NCARS specifies that a national adaption strategy should, among other things, identify national goals, promote resilience to the extent possible, coordinate planning requirements and applications for federal resources, direct support to under-resourced communities, increase the accessibility of climate information, improve resilience measurement, prioritize federal resilience funding and develop ways to support nonfederal partners’ resilience building. To ensure that the plan addresses the on-the-ground needs of Americans bearing the brunt of disasters, the bill would create a Partners Council on Climate Adaptation and Resilience comprised of representatives from state, local, territorial and Tribal governments, the nonprofit and private sectors and academia to work on collective recommendations that streamline federal allocation of resources and better support for vulnerable populations.

As tens of billions of taxpayer dollars begin to flow from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the recently passed Inflation Reduction Act, the U.S. needs identifiable leadership and a comprehensive roadmap to optimize the efficiency and effectiveness of those investments. The NCARS Act offers a prudent, bipartisan solution that would jumpstart national resilience efforts toward a safer and more secure country.



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