Everyone had a good laugh the other day when an official from Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s (R) administration tried to get through a legislative hearing on emergency preparedness without using the words “climate change.” But before the story fades from view, it’s worth pausing to appreciate the substantive question behind the humor.
At issue is a FEMA requirement that states develop a “climate-change plan” in order to receive preparedness dollars. This became literally laughable in the Florida example – Scott’s chief of emergency management said the state will eventually have a hazard-mitigation plan with “language to that effect.”
But let’s back up a minute. FEMA is requiring states come up with a “climate-change plan”? The conservative Washington Times reported this week that new guidelines pose a potential challenge to climate deniers in gubernatorial offices.
The rules say that states’ risk assessments must include “consideration of changing environmental or climate conditions that may affect and influence the long-term vulnerability from hazards in the state.”The policy, which goes into effect in March 2016, doesn’t affect federal money for relief after a hurricane, flood, or other natural disaster. But states seeking disaster preparedness money from Washington will be required to assess how climate change threatens their communities, a requirement that wasn’t included in FEMA’s 2008 guidelines.
That’s an important detail. If a natural disaster strikes in your area, FEMA is on the way whether your state government accepts scientific evidence or not. These new rules, however, apply to disaster-preparedness resources – if states want funds to better prepare for natural disasters, the Obama administration expects those states to incorporate the effects of the climate crisis into those plans.
Or in FEMA’s more bureaucratic language, “The risk assessment must provide a summary of the probability of future hazard events. Probability must include considerations of changing future conditions, including the effects of long-term changes in weather patterns and climate.”
You might guess some of the governors who aren’t happy about this.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) on Tuesday slammed a new FEMA rule that could force states to recognize climate change in order to receive disaster preparedness funds.“This preparation saves lives,” Jindal said in a statement to the Washington Times. “The White House should not use it for political leverage to force acquiescence to their left-wing ideology.”
The problem, of course, is that the Louisiana Republican’s argument doesn’t make sense. Connecting emergency preparedness to the effects of the climate crisis is responsible policymaking, not an ideological ploy. Natural disasters are neither left-wing nor right-wing, and there need not be anything political about risk assessments.
What Jindal and his cohorts personally believe is irrelevant – FEMA isn’t asking governors to adopt a pro-science posture. What he and other climate-denying governors do to prepare for disasters, however, is fair game.
The latest video from msnbc and our partners at NowThis helps capture the situation nicely.