Latest White House Report Highlights Climate Resiliency

By Yessenia Funes Nov 01, 2016

Yesterday (October 31), the White House released a report on climate resiliency titled “Opportunities to Enhance the Nation’s Resilience to Climate Change.” 

The 46-page report acknowledges the impacts of extreme weather events like hurricanes and droughts, highlighting how far the U.S. is from properly handling such disasters. In the last decade, extreme weather and wildfires have cost the federal government more than $357 billion. In 2015 alone, the U.S. Forest Service spent $2.6 billion on wildfires. California absorbed $2.2 billion in losses caused by its drought. “Instead of waiting to respond, the Federal Government is committed to working with communities to anticipate and reduce the future damages of climate change,” reads a statement for the report.

While the report gets into the basics of climate resiliency, like improving infrastructure and addressing national security risks, it also acknowledges the realities whch overburdened low-income and communities of color face with climate change. More specifically, it addresses the impact on Indigenous people, those who do not speak English and low-income communities.

The Council on Climate Preparedness and Resilience, which authored the report, used the words “climate equity” to discuss how to incorporate populations at higher risk of exacerbated health and socioeconomic inequities as climate change worsens. “By considering climate equity, federal, state, local and tribal partners are working to ensure that all people have the opportunity to benefit equally from climate solutions and to diminish the disproportionate burden of climate impacts that some communities endure,” the report states.

Reaching and uplifting these communities, according to the report, involves "building inclusive, meaningful public participation into the climate adaptation and hazard mitigation planning process," as is already happening in Baltimore. In California, as Colorines has reported on, the Community Water Center worked with Spanish-speaking residents to develop local leaders who can voice their own concerns related to the drought crisis.

Yet, as shown in Colorlines’ reporting on Hurricane Sandy, resiliency and the ability to recover after a disaster is more than a matter of infrastructure and ecosystems. It is also about community fabric and social cohesion. 

Per the report:

Regional coordination can focus on areas that face high risk from certain climate change impacts such as sea level rise in Alaska and the Pacific and Caribbean Islands, hurricanes along the East Coast and Gulf of Mexico, and water shortages and drought in the West and West Coast. The opportunity, facilitate coproduction of tools, provides examples of effective models.

By working locally, the Federal Government can connect community leaders with each other through regional coordination and peer-to-peer learning to address shared climate change impacts through coordinated regional approaches. Regional coordination supports community leaders with varying expertise, perspectives, and capacity to manage resilience challenges for stronger outcomes. For example, similar projects from multiple communities in a region could be bundled to attract funding from government and the private sector.

Read the full report here.