WASHINGTON –- The Obama administration quietly unveiled a new executive order on Friday laying out plans to deal with the impacts of climate change and directing federal agencies to revise programs and policies that might serve as barriers to climate adaptation.
The order builds out the Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience that President Obama called for in his June climate change speech. The task force will bring together local, state and tribal officials to collaborate on approaches for dealing with climate impacts and advise the federal government. Those impacts include heat waves, extreme storm events, droughts, ocean acidification, sea-level rise and the melting of the permafrost.
The task force includes the Democratic governors of Hawaii, California, Washington, Delaware, Maryland, Illinois and Vermont. There is only one Republican governor who signed on to the task force -- Eddie Calvo, the governor of the small Pacific Island territory of Guam. The task force also includes 16 mayors and two tribal leaders.
The executive order also creates a second group –- the Council on Climate Preparedness and Resilience –- made up of senior officials from all of the federal agencies and led by the head of the Council on Environmental Quality, Obama's top national security adviser and the head of the Office of Science and Technology Policy. The council will replace the Interagency Climate Change Adaptation Task Force that Obama created in 2009.
The order also calls on federal agencies to identify ways to remove barriers in laws or programs that might make it difficult to address climate-related issues, and to "reform policies and Federal funding programs that may, perhaps unintentionally, increase the vulnerability of natural or built systems, economic sectors, natural resources, or communities to climate change related risks." The directive pushes agencies to think proactively about how climate change could affect federal programs -- from the construction and maintenance of dams and levees to the flood insurance program.
It directs the heads of the departments of Defense, Interior, Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Army Corps of Engineers to take an inventory of their land and water policies and deliver a list of proposed changes to the White House in the next nine months, along with a proposed timeline for making those changes.
The order comes three days after the anniversary of Superstorm Sandy, which caused $65 billion in damage along the East Coast.