Carper asks Trump to rethink policies in storms’ wake

Source: Arianna Skibell, E&E News reporter • Posted: Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee’s top Democrat is urging President Trump to reinstate federal climate policies after Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

Delaware Sen. Tom Carper asked Trump to reconsider recently revoked or weakened initiatives aimed at helping communities prepare for extreme weather and other climate-change-related effects.

“While our country debates how to address climate change, rising sea levels and extreme weather events are no longer a matter of debate, becoming the new norm and placing extreme burdens on the American people and economy,” Carper wrote in a recent letter.

“As seen most recently with Hurricane Harvey,” he said, “the impacts of extreme weather events are devastating, resulting in lives lost and imposing long-term economic costs.”

The cost of rebuilding damaged infrastructure after catastrophic storms is growing, he said. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) estimated $180 billion is needed to help his state recover from Harvey. The cost of recovery has grown significantly in recent years, according to NOAA.

“The recent events in Houston and the impending impacts from Hurricane Irma are reminders that our country can no longer delay,” Carper said. “We must better prepare our communities, making them more resilient in the face of a new climate reality.”

Trump has rescinded a number of Obama-era executive orders that aimed to facilitate extreme weather resiliency and planning. Most recently, he issued an order that would no longer require public infrastructure projects built in flood-prone areas to account for sea-level rise.

Carper asked Trump to reinstate the Federal Flood Risk Management Standard and to bring back and fund agency preparedness efforts. He noted that Trump’s fiscal 2018 budget would reduce or zero out funding for climate resiliency action across the government.

The Democrat also requested that the president release the fourth National Climate Assessment and extend the charter for a federal climate panel. Last month, the administration disbanded the Sustained National Climate Assessment Advisory Committee, a 15-member panel of academics, industry representatives, government officials and nonprofit representatives tasked with deciding how to use the National Climate Assessment for long-term resilience planning.

NOAA has said the panel’s demise will not affect the scheduled 2018 release of the assessment.

Finally, Carper urged Trump to host a “red team-blue team” exercise on climate preparedness. This request counters plans by U.S. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt who has said he would lead an initiative to challenge mainstream climate science using a “back-and-forth critique” by government-recruited experts.

“Instead of using a red team/blue team exercise to reassess internationally peer-reviewed climate science as some in the Administration would like to do,” Carper wrote, “these types of exercises should be used to assess our nation’s structural vulnerabilities to the expected impacts of climate change.”