POLITICS
03/29/2018 12:01 pm ET

Rep. Keith Ellison Demands FEMA Explain Why It Cut Climate Change From Strategic Plan

FEMA removed all reference to climate change from its planning document earlier this month.

In a perplexing decision earlier this month, the Federal Emergency Management Agency decided it will no longer take climate change into account as it plans ahead for the future.

If that leaves you with some serious concerns, you’re not alone. Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) has some too. On Thursday, Ellison sent a letter to FEMA Administrator Brock Long with some pointed questions seeking clarification.

Of particular note is FEMA’s recently released 2018-2022 “Strategic Plan.” The document is crafted to prepare the nation for future catastrophic disasters; in its latest iteration, it omits any reference to climate change. That stands in contrast to the 2014-2018 Strategic Plan, which identified climate change as a prime contributor to increasing disaster risk ― and urged we take action.

Rep. Ellison called the change “inexplicable,” especially considering the plan’s stated goals include ensuring society is provided with the necessary information to prepare for future disasters. This goal is consistent with FEMA’s overall vision of building “a prepared and resilient nation.” 

“The nation can neither be prepared for nor resilient in the face of climate-induced disasters if government leaders ignore the scientific information related to climate change and its risks,” the representative’s letter reads.

“It is puzzling to understand how FEMA could meet the emerging challenges of 21st century disasters while ignoring the mounting evidence of the link between climate change and weather events,” Rep. Ellison continued. “Last year’s Climate Science Special Report, part of the National Climate Assessment, found that natural disasters intensified by global warming will become more frequent and problematic as temperatures rise.”

2017 was the costliest, most damaging year on record for weather and climate-related disasters in the U.S., with a total bill of $306 billion. That figure is expected to rise as the climate shifts further.

FEMA defended its decision to exclude climate change from the planning document earlier this month, emphasizing it’s focused more on the effects of storms than their causes. While omitting climate change, the agency did, however, identify several causes of rising damage, including “rising natural hazard risk, decaying critical infrastructure, and economic pressures that limit investments in risk resilience.”

Rep. Ellison’s letter concludes with a series of questions seeking more information on FEMA’s decision ― and who had a say in it. The questions include:

“What analysis, if any, was used to conclude that climate change and global warming are not strategic risks worthy of inclusion in the FEMA Strategic Plan?” 

“Were any individuals from the White House or the Executive Office of the President involved in this decision?”

“Which outside organizations or individuals did you meet with prior to making this decision?”

“Did FEMA consult with any scientists or climate experts when making this decision?”

“Do you believe there is a link between human activity, the changing climate, and extreme weather events?”

Ellison has requested FEMA respond by April 11.

CONVERSATIONS