Biden Announces New Investments in Resiliency After Sobering Climate Report
WASHINGTON — The United States is warming nearly 60% faster than the world as a whole and the harm that’s causing Americans is worsening across every region of the country, a new government report shows.
The latest edition of the National Climate Assessment, released on Tuesday, found that while there may be regional differences to the impacts — with massive wildfires plaguing the West, stubborn droughts taking hold in the Midwest and flooding becoming all too common in northeastern cities — everyone has experienced some disruption of an aspect of their lives due to climate change.
“Anyone who willfully denies the impact of climate change is condemning the American people to a very dangerous future,” said President Joe Biden as he unveiled the report in the South Court Auditorium of the Old Executive Office Building.
“Impacts are only going to get worse, more frequent, more ferocious and more costly,” the president said. “Last year alone, natural disasters in America resulted in $178 billion in damages.
“They hit everyone, no matter their circumstances. But they hit the most vulnerable the hardest — seniors, people with disabilities, people experiencing homelessness who have nowhere to turn, Black, brown and tribal communities,” Biden said.
“And folks, none of this is inevitable. None of this is inevitable,” he said.
“From day one, my administration has taken unprecedented climate action,” Biden continued. “We’re working with everyone from mayors to county officials to entrepreneurs, academics, business leaders, labor leaders, tribal leaders … and we’re working in all parts of America, cities, suburbs, small towns and rural communities and tribal nations.”
The National Climate Assessment — a report assessing the impacts of climate change on the United States and what, if any, progress we’ve made in slowing it — comes out every four to five years.
It is the work product of more than 750 experts who evaluate thousands of academic studies and other data to compile a comprehensive, yet easily understood analysis of the situation.
The last time it came out, during the Trump administration, the White House effectively tried to bury it, holding its release until Americans were celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.
The Biden administration decided to do just the opposite with the fifth edition of the report.
“We’re sharing this report in detail with the American people … [so they] know exactly what they’re facing and what we’re gonna have to do,” Biden said.
In addition to highlighting the findings of the report, the administration has also created an online tool to enable people to see the impacts of climate change in their city and state.
Among the report’s broader findings is that since 1970, the lower 48 states have warmed by 2.5 degrees (1.4 degrees Celsius) and Alaska has heated up by 4.2 degrees (2.3 degrees Celsius), compared to the global average of 1.7 degrees (0.9 degrees Celsius), the report said.
In Alaska that means the snowpack is disappearing, the glaciers are shrinking and ocean waters along the state’s coastline are becoming more acidic.
In other parts of the country, the number of consecutive days of excessive heat are growing longer and the actual temperatures reached during those days, hotter.
In Phoenix, Arizona, the report noted, daily high temperatures reached or exceeded 110 degrees for 31 consecutive days last summer.
And these changes, along with those already mentioned, threaten everything from crop and animal production to the income of the travel and tourism industries.
And that’s without even saying anything about the more catastrophic severe storms that rake large portions of the United States each year.
Climate change, the authors wrote, is ”harming physical, mental, spiritual, and community health and well-being through the increasing frequency and intensity of extreme events, increasing cases of infectious and vector-borne diseases, and declines in food and water quality and security.”
Biden spoke more personally.
“I’ve walked the streets of Louisiana, New Jersey, New York, Florida, Puerto Rico — where historic hurricanes and floods wiped out homes, hospitals, houses of worship, just wiped them right off the map,” he said.
“I’ve met with families in Texas, Kentucky, Mississippi, where catastrophic winter storms and tornadoes devoured everything in their paths: schools, businesses, police stations, firehouses. I’ve seen firefighters in Idaho, Maui, New Mexico, California, Colorado,” he added.
But for all the gloom that could be pulled from the report, the president stressed that “solutions are within reach.”
“It takes time for the investments we’re making to be fully materialized, but we just have to keep at it. We need to do more and move faster. We have the tools to do it,” he said.
Toward that end, the president announced on Tuesday that his administration is making an additional investment of $6 billion from the Inflation Reduction Act and bipartisan infrastructure law to “make communities across the country more resilient to climate change.”
Of the $6 billion, $3.9 billion will go toward strengthening the electric grid — marking the second round of funding from the $10.5 billion allocated in the bipartisan infrastructure law to the Grid Resilience and Innovation Partnerships Program.
In addition, the Inflation Reduction Act-funded Environmental and Climate Justice Community Change Grants program will award $2 billion to local projects that use clean energy to respond to climate challenges.
At the same time, the Federal Emergency Management Agency will give $300 million to communities to reduce the impacts of future floods and the Interior Department will designate $100 million for upgrades to infrastructure that enhances drought resilience.