The new long-term strategic planning document from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the entity charged with responding to the nation’s disasters, omits all mention of climate change and its effects. This represents the Trump administration’s latest move to stop addressing—or even acknowledging—climate change at the federal level.
FEMA’s last strategic plan, issued in 2014 during President Barack Obama’s second term, mentioned climate change eight times. “Scientific evidence indicates that the climate is changing and significant economic, social, and environmental consequences can be expected as a result. A changing climate is already resulting in quantifiable changes to the risks communities face, showing that future risks are not the same as those faced in the past,” that document stated.
But the agency’s 2018–22 Strategic Plan, released Thursday, contains no reference to climate change, sea level rise, or rising global temperatures, nor does it mention the U.S. National Climate Assessment. It says that disaster costs are expected to increase, due to “rising natural hazard risk, decaying critical infrastructure, and economic pressures that limit investments in risk resilience,” but does not explain what might be driving that “rising natural hazard risk.”
Texas has long omitted mention of climate change in its state-level planning documents, and with President Trump, this strategy has gone federal.
Andrew Dessler, professor of atmospheric sciences at Texas A&M University, did not mince words about the change in an email. “We live in a world where sea level is rising, heat waves are becoming more extreme, precipitation events are becoming more extreme, etc. If you’re the agency tasked with preparing for natural disasters, deciding to not take this into account seems to me to be the literal definition of insanity,” Dessler wrote.
Climate change is a threat multiplier, exacerbating risks that we already face. This move from FEMA comes just over six months after Hurricane Harvey first made landfall, a storm that scientists have found was stronger due to climate change, estimating in a December study that the hurricane dumped 37 percent more rain over the Texas Gulf Coast due to higher temperatures and humidity.
President Donald Trump long voiced skepticism on the reality of climate change on the campaign trail, and since taking office has taken a series of steps to undercut the federal-level response to the problem, including appointing prominent climate skeptic Scott Pruitt to lead the Environmental Protection Agency in December 2016, announcing his intention to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Climate Accords last June, and dropping climate change from his list of global threats to national security in December. And this week, Trump fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. The former CEO of Exxon had been one of the Trump administration’s most prominent proponents of the U.S. remaining in the Paris climate deal.