A large part of the response to climate change amounts to holding actions to mitigate the impact of fossil fuel emissions and to better prepare for unprecedented storms, hurricanes and floods.
Is enough being done on the latter point — preparedness for extreme weather? The answer is no, according to a 76-page report released this month by the National Wildlife Federation, Allied World Assurance Company Holdings and Earth Economics. In fact, the organizations say, there’s a major “preparedness deficit.”
The study, Natural Defenses from Hurricanes and Floods: Protecting America’s Communities and Ecosystems in an Era of Extreme Weather, examines the growing risks from potentially-catastrophic natural hazards; the policy solutions that can safeguard people, property and wildlife habitats; and local case studies that can point the way forward.
“Our preparedness deficit is the result of years of inaction and under-investment at the federal, state and local levels,” says Collin O’Mara, NWF president and CEO. “It’s time for our elected officials to reinvest in our natural defenses and this report offers a blueprint for bipartisan, market-based solutions.”
The report reads: “Far too many people who live along America’s coasts and rivers are at considerable risk of personal harm from floods and hurricanes, and their properties and economic livelihoods are highly vulnerable as well. Efforts by policy makers to grapple with and respond to these problems have been inadequate.”
Climate impacts are hitting home faster than governments are adapting, the report's authors say. “But it’s not too late to protect our communities with cost-effective, nature-based approaches for risk reduction, ” But — and there are always many buts when it comes to reacting to and dealing with climate change — what’s needed are major increases in “investments in proactive risk reduction measures” on the scale of a “Marshall Plan,” that will take into consideration the growing risks from more intense storms, flooding and sea level rise.
Two years ago Superstorm Sandy, a storm climate scientists say was worsened by global warming, slammed into the East Coast. It killed 72 Americans, touched 24 states, knocked out power to more than 7 million people and caused an estimated $70 billion in damage. In 2014, the U.S. has just come off the hottest six-month stretch on record globally, and America saw the ninth wettest summer on record:
The authors note that improvements in seven areas of federal and state law are needed:
Here’s the thing however: The Marshall Plan was the American initiative to aid Europe after World War II, in which the United States gave $17 billion — or the equivalent of about $160 billion in current dollars — in economic support to help rebuild European economies over four years beginning in April 1948. What are the odds that the U.S. will spend on that scale over the coming decades?
Image credit: Picture extracted from the Natural Defenses report