Washington, D.C. — On Wednesday, at the fourth and final meeting of the State, Local, and Tribal Leaders Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience, President Barack Obama announced a series of new initiatives to strengthen natural disaster preparedness and help communities mitigate the extreme costs of damages resulting from climate change. Today, the Center for American Progress released a series of recommendations detailing how the president can work with cities and states to reduce extreme weather and other climate change risks to low-income families and create resilient, safe, and equitable communities.
Climate change puts communities, businesses, and the economy at greater risk of heat waves, drought, flooding caused by severe storms and sea-level rise, along with other extreme weather events. Recognizing these risks, President Obama outlined Wednesday a range of actions to help communities develop more resilient infrastructure, rebuild stronger and smarter existing infrastructure, make coastal regions more resilient, and provide decision makers with better information on flood and other climate change risks.
However, as outlined in CAP’s new report, more action is needed to address the skyrocketing risks of climate change in low-income communities, which are more vulnerable to extreme weather events due to poor housing quality, poor environmental conditions, and economic instability.
“Given the high risks and consequences of more extreme weather and climate change in low-income communities, federal, state, and local policymakers must take immediate action to strengthen the resilience of these communities,” said Cathleen Kelly, Senior Fellow at CAP. “While the upfront costs of strengthening community resilience are high, resilience investments pay off in big ways—they save lives and significantly reduce taxpayer spending on disaster recovery.”
Investments in climate resiliency have been shown to yield significant economic benefits. Despite the savings from such investments, another CAP analysis determined that federal expenditures for resilience lag far behind disaster relief. CAP estimated that between fiscal year 2011 and 2013, the federal government spent $136 billion on disaster recovery but only $22 billion to increase preparedness—or $6 on recovery for every $1 spent on prevention.
To help low-income communities better prepare for climate change, CAP recommends that the president’s Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience take the following actions:
Strengthen affordable housing and infrastructure. The president and Congress should help localities strengthen the quality of affordable housing by increasing pre-disaster affordable-housing investments and by increasing the low-income housing tax credit to disaster areas with a significant loss of such housing.
Reduce environmental hazards and disaster risks. The president and Congress should expand funding for the Pre-Disaster Mitigation Program fund, the Weatherization Assistance Program, and the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program to help communities evaluate their disaster risks, develop hazard mitigation plans, increase energy efficiency, and pay electricity bills.
Enhance economic stability. The president and Congress should oppose budget cuts in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, and ensure that there is adequate funding for Disaster SNAP to assist people harmed by natural disasters to purchase food.
Take further steps. Cities and states must update building codes and strengthen electricity grids to protect communities and businesses from power outages, and Congress must authorize investments critical to fortifying our nation’s infrastructure and building resilient and equitable communities.