Obama Plan Helps Communities Prepare For Extreme Weather Brought On By Climate Change

This post was written by Frances Beinecke and originally appeared on EcoWatch.

New Yorkers remember all too well the alarm we felt as Superstorm Sandy pounded our city. Apartment buildings and hospitals were swamped, and entire neighborhoods went without power for days. People who lost their homes or businesses spent months trying to pick up the pieces. And city officials and residents wondered: will we be ready next time?

For in the age of climate change, there will be a next time. There will be more intense storms in my hometown of New York, and more extreme flooding, heat waves and drought in communities around the nation. There will also be many ways to make our towns and cities more resilient in the face of these changes.

On Wednesday, the Obama Administration made it easier to embrace those solutions.

The President announced a series of initiatives that will help communities maintain power supplies during intense storms and heat waves, prepare for flooding and sea level rise, safeguard rural drinking water supplies affected by the West Coast drought and fund natural disaster response.

The measures arose out of the President’s State, Local and Tribal Leaders Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience. The group includes governors, mayors and tribal chairmen who have seen firsthand how climate change undermines public safety and local economies. They also know what solutions work on the ground.

The resulting measures reflect several important insights.

Extreme weather doesn’t just threaten our infrastructure. It also endangers our health. Intense heat, for instance, makes air pollution worse and contributes to asthma attacks and other respiratory problems. Powerful storms can foul drinking water and raise the risk of drowning. The Obama Administration’s preparedness initiative includes a new tool from the Centers for Disease Control that helps communities identify climate-related health risks and determine if their hospitals, early warning systems and public outreach efforts are ready to respond to shifting hazards.

The Obama Administration’s plan also recognizes the role the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) can play in helping communities assess climate threats. Every five years, states and local governments submit plans to FEMA for reducing vulnerability to storms, heat waves, wildfires and droughts. Yet the agency hasn’t asked them to factor in climate change when assessing the risk of future hazards. Now as part of the administration’s new measures, FEMA will require states to incorporate climate change into these plans—a move Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has urged. This will help states invest their money more wisely and protect more people, homes and businesses from extreme weather.

Wednesday’s announcement also calls for expanding one of the most effective solutions for reducing flood risk: green infrastructure. Towns and cities across the East and Midwest will experience more intense rainfalls, causing local flooding, overwhelming stormwater systems, and often sending raw sewage into waterways.

Green infrastructure—things like pocket parks, sidewalk plantings and permeable pavement—has been proven to capture rain where it falls and cut down on flooding. It also costs less than most traditional approaches to stormwater and raises property values. The administration’s plan offers incentives to spread these benefits to more cities and towns. NRDC is also encouraging states to expand support for green infrastructure as well.

In the end, the most important thing we can do to shield our communities from climate change is to reduce the pollution that causes it in the first place. The Obama Administration has released a Clean Power Plan that will help America slash dangerous carbon pollution. But even as our nation shifts to cleaner energy, we must help communities brace for the climate impacts that are already unfolding. The administration’s preparedness measures will make us stronger and more resilient.


Photo Credit: Thinkstock


Warren Webber
Warren Webber3 years ago

Live long and prosper!

Dan Blossfeld
Dan Blossfeld3 years ago

Eric R.,
While there is a connection between the recent warming and decreased storminess, I would not say that 98% of scientists have declared it to be true. Additionally, there appears to be no connection between the past warming episodes and tropical activity. The best correlation appears to an increase in precipitaion as the temperatures have warming, which would be expected by physics. This would be expected to increase flood occurrances. However, evidence of such has been obstructed by water control programs. Increases in colder temperatures, particularly wintertime, are expected to lessen storminess, and this is exemplified in the decrease in tornadic activity over the past half century. The increase in precipitation have also led to a decrease in drought. Overall, an increase in storm prepardedness is a good idea. The warming of the 90s may have led to a period of false security. Future cooling may lead to more storminess.

Brett Byers
Brett Byers3 years ago

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Janis K.
Janis K3 years ago

Thanks for sharing.

Marianne B.
Marianne B3 years ago

noted. tfs

Sofia D.
Sofia D3 years ago

gawd climate change, thanks for the infoo

Natasha Salgado
Past Member 3 years ago

Guess we'll see what comes of it.

Lisa Zilli
Lisa Zilli3 years ago


Deborah W.
Deborah W3 years ago

Given the way Obama plans are tanking and disproven effective on most levels and, additionally, even environmentalist experts can't seem to sell it, I say get on with the pressing events of THE NOW or we won't have to worry about those coming down the road, we won't be.

Grace Adams
Grace Adams3 years ago

We need to both prepare for the worst and do what we can to encourage the best. Water--both too much all at once AND too little like major drought--are in our future. We need to prepare for both. We know how to encourage sudden downpours to soak into the ground. And we know how to extract fresh water from seawater. We need to go ahead and do it. We know how to capture some of the excess CO2 from the atmosphere and either force feed it to algae or use it in a big chemical factory to somehow combine hydrogen from electrolyzing water with CO2 to get methane and oxygen, then release the oxygen and further process the methane to make other hydrocarbon fuels or use CO2 as fracking/hydraulic/heat-transfer fluid in enhanced geothermal systems. Whatever can be made most profitable to our too big to fail firms so it can be made politically feasible.