President to Meet with Governors to Prepare for Natural Disasters
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden announced Tuesday he would meet with state governors next week to map out a strategy for handling disasters from severe weather.
Heat and drought in western states is creating wildfires and crop damage. The National Weather Service is predicting potentially heavy damage from hurricanes this year.
Behind the heat and hurricanes is global warming, which meteorologists say will only get worse.
Biden is pushing an aggressive environmental agenda to confront climate change and catastrophes it can cause.
“We’re in for a tough season,” Biden said during a meeting Tuesday with Federal Emergency Management Agency officials.
The 2020 wildfire season burned more than 10 million acres across the United States, resulting in the loss of dozens of lives and tens of billions of dollars in economic damage, according to a White House statement.
“The last few days alone, we’ve seen droughts and wildfires in the West, and we’ve seen tornadoes in Illinois, flooding in the South and the Mid-Atlantic,” Biden said. “And extreme weather doesn’t confine itself, as you all know, to state lines. These crises require proactive federal responses.”
Biden’s climate agenda includes a target of a 100 percent clean energy economy and net-zero emissions no later than 2050; infrastructure investments to make buildings, water, transportation and energy resilient to climate change and a tough enforcement campaign against polluters.
Most of Biden’s environmental goals are incorporated into his American Jobs Plan, which he proposed as a $2.3 trillion investment. In recent weeks, it has met resistance from Republicans in Congress who call it inflationary and unrealistic.
His meeting next week with the governors is expected to touch on his agenda for infrastructure improvements and clean energy but the president gave few details.
Last week, FEMA administrator Deanne Criswell said in a speech, “We are now getting accustomed to a new normal while the world continues to change before our eyes.”
Biden already is taking some action to prepare for weather emergencies. Last month, he said he would double extreme weather funding to $1 billion.
The amount of money is far less than the damage severe weather caused last year.
A recent National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration report said weather disasters last year caused damages of $95 billion in 22 billion-dollar events, setting a new record for the United States. The previous record was 16 billion-dollar events in 2017.
There were more storms strong enough to be given names in 2020 than any year on record.
For this year, NOAA is predicting a 60 percent chance for a stronger than average storm season and a 70 percent probability of 13 to 20 named storms.
Rather than pay for accidents, the $1 billion dedicated to the “Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities” program would harden infrastructure against hurricanes and other disasters to prevent the damage.
About 40 percent of the money would be targeted toward disadvantaged areas.
Another part of the program can be found in an executive order Biden signed last month. It instructs federal agencies and contractors to identify the perils they face from climate change to prepare a resiliency plan.
Biden also announced a new NASA mission for an “Earth System Observatory” to give more warning when and where extreme weather is likely to strike.
“NASA’s Earth System Observatory will be a new architecture of advanced spaceborne Earth observation systems, providing the world with an unprecedented understanding of the critical interactions between Earth’s atmosphere, land, ocean and ice processes,” a White House statement said.
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