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Gina-Marie Cheeseman headshot

White House Invests in Climate Change Resilience


Climate change is real, despite what some Republican politicians might tell you. And some regions and communities in the U.S. are already feeling the impacts of climate change. Unfortunately, climate change most impacts low-income communities. As the International Institute for Environment and Development, put it, “Those who are most vulnerable to the adverse impacts of climate change are generally the poorest people and communities in every country.”

The Obama administration recently announced actions to make vulnerable communities more resilient to the impacts of climate change. The actions include over $25 million in private and public investments. Part of Obama’s Climate Action Plan established the State, Local, and Tribal Leaders Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience in 2013. The purpose of the task force is to help the federal government figure out how to respond to the needs of the communities already dealing with climate change impacts.

The task force emphasized the importance of supporting vulnerable communities like low-income, tribal and communities of color. Obama administration released a progress report this month highlighting the actions taken that support the task force’s recommendations.

Here is a highlight of the actions:

  • Resilience AmeriCorps Pilot Program. The Resilience AmeriCorps Pilot Program will recruit, train and embed AmeriCorps VISTA members in up to 12 communities in 2015. The two-year pilot program is established in partnership with the Corporation for National and Community Service, the Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the The Rockefeller Foundation and Cities of Service. Members of AmeriCorps VISTA -- or Volunteers in Service To America -- will help vulnerable communities develop plans to become more resilient to climate change impacts.

  • Helping tribes prepare for climate impacts. The Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs announced an $11.8 million grant to support tribes in planning for climate change impacts. The grant will support over 104 awards addressing tribal efforts for training, providing technical assistance and capacity-building needs.

  • Conducting a climate adaptation, preparedness and resilience seminar. Working with the Obama administration and federal agencies, the National Exercise Division of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is designing and conducting a seminar series that gives the knowledge and tools communities need to address climate change impacts. The first pilot seminar will be held in the Miami area in mid-August.

  • Increasing energy security in Native American tribes. The Department of Energy announced that five Native American tribes are receiving support from the department’s Strategic Technical Assistance Response Team (START) Program. The 2015 projects include validating the economics of a proposed microgrid, helping to determine the best way to transport renewable energy to tribal consumers, and better understanding the economics of expanding the use of renewable energy on tribal lands.

Is it enough?

Are the actions the Obama administration is taking enough? The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) doesn’t seem to think so. In a blog post last week, the UCS recommended that Congress "step up and designate a National Resilience Fund, perhaps paid for through a price on carbon, to help prepare and protect communities."

Indeed, Congress should step up and designate a National Resilience Fund, but that has a snow ball's chance in hell of happening with the Republicans in control of both congressional houses. Back in January, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee said that while she believes the climate is changing, she does not “agree that all the changes are necessarily due solely to human activity.”

Perhaps it is time for the American people to take climate change so seriously that they vote into office congressional members who not only believe it is occurring, but will do something to prepare our communities to deal with its impacts.

Image credit: Flickr/DVIDSHUB

Gina-Marie Cheeseman headshotGina-Marie Cheeseman

Gina-Marie is a freelance writer and journalist armed with a degree in journalism, and a passion for social justice, including the environment and sustainability. She writes for various websites, and has made the 75+ Environmentalists to Follow list by Mashable.com.

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