- Mention of man-made climate change is being erased from press releases and reports while agencies continue to research and prepare for a warmer, wetter future.
- EPA, FEMA, HUD and the Army Corps of Engineers are among the agencies working to mitigate the impact of climate change.
- The number of homes bought and torn down around the country, sometimes with federal money, is growing, as states like Florida, Louisiana, Texas and New York look for ways to coax residents away from coasts.
While President Donald Trump has ping-ponged from calling climate change both a hoax and a serious subject, agencies under his charge are quietly preparing for a warmer future.
The Environmental Protection Agency, Army Corps of Engineers, Federal Emergency Management Agency and other agencies are all taking steps to mitigate the effects of climate change even as the Trump administration guts Obama-era efforts. Trump has called man-made climate change everything from a “hoax” to an urgent problem and has taken the U.S. out of the Paris Climate Accord, promoted fossil-fuel output and disbanded expert panels.
“Despite what the president and his senior advisors say about climate change, there are experts at agencies that are all too aware of the dangers climate change presents,” Rob Moore, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Water and Climate Team, told Karma. “They do what they can to help communities and individual people deal with the effects of climate change.”
The Trump administration has tried to erase any mention in documents that human activities are responsible for changes to the earth’s climate, and the president has proposed cutting Environmental Protection Agency funding by 26% in his most recent budget proposal, a move which would cripple the agency‘s ability to monitor climate change. Democrats in Congress have beaten back EPA budget-cut proposals in the president’s previous budgets and are expected to do the same this time.
“A lot of these agencies are taking action to mitigate climate change, even if they aren’t calling it that,” A.R. Siders, a professor at the University of Delaware, who is an expert on managed retreat, told Karma. “If you call it flood protection or storm hardening, and avoid mentioning climate change, this is where you can see bipartisan action.”
At the Interior Department, scientists have continued to track changes to carbon dioxide levels at the same time that — according to The New York Times — an official added misleading language to agency reports, including debunked claims that more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is beneficial. The U.S. Geological Survey, a part of the Interior Department, still conducts important climate research and manages the Landsat satellite system that has tracked man-made climate changes since 1972.
While mention of climate change has been erased or minimized in reports, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Department of Housing and Urban Development are providing communities with funds to buy homes that are threatened by the rising sea levels and increasing rainfall amounts that result from climate change. More than 43,000 properties have been purchased with FEMA money over the last 30 years, a small fraction of the total number of homes that are threatened by rising seas and rivers. HUD has made $6.875 billion in federal climate resilience funding to states and localities.
Even the Army Corps of Engineers is taking on climate change. It’s no longer just building dams, levees and canals to deal with floodwaters, it’s now taking global warming into consideration and planning retreats from flood-prone regions. The agency is offering localities money if they agree to use eminent domain to seize flood-prone residences. If they don’t use the tool, towns will be unable to get the money.
“There’s been a shift from building walls and keeping people where they are to moving people out of flood plains,” Siders said. “About 1,100 counties, over a third of the total, have used money that FEMA has provided money for relocation of homes in flood-prone areas.”
The message seems to be that agencies are able to continue their preparations for man-made global warming as long as they don’t mention it by name.
(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)