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FEMA To States: You Want Cash? Say Climate Change Is Real. SAY IT!
In an elegant reply to politicians who aren't scientists but don't mind ignoring experts who are, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has come up with a simple solution: States whose governors decide there's no need to plan for the consequences of a changing climate will no longer qualify for federal grants for emergency preparedness. For climate deniers like Louisiana's Bobby Jindal, Florida's Rick Scott, or Texas's Greg Abbott, it's a pretty clear opportunity for them to put their coastlines and their populations where their mouths are. Governors who refuse to consider climate in their states' hazard mitigation plans could lose hundreds of millions of dollars in FEMA money.
The new policy would only apply to grants aimed at disaster preparedness -- funding for FEMA assistance following natural disasters would not be affected.
"If a state has a climate denier governor that doesn't want to accept a plan, that would risk mitigation work not getting done because of politics," said Becky Hammer, an attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council's water program. "The governor would be increasing the risk to citizens in that state" because of his climate beliefs.
Beginning in March 2016, states must assess how climate change may increase threats to their communities and include those estimates in hazard mitigation plans when they apply for federal preparedness funding. This could prove interesting for Florida, where state employees are literally not allowed to say "climate change" or "global warming," or they have to put five bucks in the swear jar. (For second offenses, Gov. Scott personally shows up late at night to scare their children.) So we're guessing Gov. Bat Boy is going to just kiss some big-time grant money goodbye, along with large tracts of Miami. And no, Sen. Inhofe, Oklahoma won't get any disaster preparedness money for Tornado Alley, even if youwrap up a snowball and mail it to FEMA.
FEMA's new guidelines make it clear that states need to take into account a range of possible effects from climate chance, regardless of how much oil companies have contributed to their governors' election campaigns:
The challenges posed by climate change, such as more intense storms, frequent heavy precipitation, heat waves, drought, extreme flooding, and higher sea levels, could significantly alter the types and magnitudes of hazards impacting states in the future. Due to the inherent uncertainties with projections of future hazard events, states are expected to look across the whole community of partners (for example, public, private, academic, non-governmental, etc.) to identify the most relevant data and select the most appropriate methodologies to assess risks and vulnerability.
Good god. The federal government is telling the states they'll actually have to listen to scientists about risks from climate change, at least if they want to qualify for disaster preparedness funding. What sort of madness is this? It's as outrageous as insurance companies charging people more if they smoke!
Inside Climate News notes that Republican-led states:
constitute eight of the top 10 recipients of this category of FEMA money between 2010 and 2014. Louisiana was No. 1, having received almost $1.1 billion from FEMA for hazard mitigation. New Jersey was third with nearly $379 million, and Texas fourth with almost $343 million.
You know, a bunch of takers.
The gubernatorial approval clause was included in the new guidelines to "raise awareness and support for implementing the actions in the mitigation strategy and increasing statewide resilience to natural hazards," said FEMA spokeswoman Susan Hendrick.
Inside Climate News didn't note whether Hendrick said that with a big grin, but we'd like to think she did.
Don't be too surprised if this policy eventually gets portrayed on Fox News as FEMA forcing governors to sign a "climate loyalty oath" or some such bullshit, but let's be clear about what it really is: a demand that if you want to get money to prepare for disasters, you can't ignore preparing for the ones your wingnut constituents prefer to pretend aren't real.