POLITICS
05/03/2018 02:12 pm ET Updated May 04, 2018

FEMA's Latest Excuse For Why It's Ignoring Climate Change: It Forgot

That clears it up.

When the Federal Emergency Management Agency in March published its latest plan for mitigating natural disasters, there was one thing missing: any mention of climate change.

Rep. Keith Ellison asked the agency why, and so far he’s not happy with the answer. In its latest response, FEMA says it basically forgot.

“There was no decision, and no direction, to deliberately avoid or omit any particular term in the writing of the 2018-2022 Strategic Plan,” FEMA Director Brock Long wrote on April 12, referring to the document the agency uses to help anticipate and prepare the nation for natural disasters. 

Long’s claim is a remarkable one given that 2017 was the costliest, most-damaging year on record for weather and climate-related disasters in the U.S., and the third-warmest year on record. Experts predict those costs, which directly impact FEMA’s operation, will increase as the climate shifts further and further from its baseline.

The previous, Obama-era strategic plan identified climate change as a prime contributor to increasing disaster risk and urged action; the new, Trump-era document doesn’t mention it at all.

Ellison is now asking the agency to give a real explanation. On Wednesday, he asked FEMA to explain the “analytical basis” for why it omitted climate change from its five-year plan. 

“Your April 12th, 2018, response did not adequately answer this question.” Ellison wrote in a letter to Long. “Although you reassured me that ‘the plan emphasizes all aspects of disaster preparedness, regardless of cause,’ you still have not addressed why the plan makes no mention of climate change.”

Where Ellison’s original letter asked FEMA to identify whom it consulted in drafting its new strategic plan, Long only cited “FEMA employees and external stakeholders,” as well as comments submitted online. Long’s responses to follow-up questions only referred back to that answer, including a request that FEMA specifically identify “any scientists or climate experts” who contributed to the decision.

Ellison’s new letter requests copies of those online comments, and again asks FEMA to specifically identify those “external stakeholders.” It also asks whether Long’s office consulted with the White House when formulating the plan’s “goals and objectives.”

In an emailed statement to HuffPost, FEMA public affairs director William Booher said it doesn’t matter whether climate change was mentioned in the document.

“It is evident that this strategic plan fully incorporates future risks from all hazards regardless of cause,” he said. “Building upon the foundation established by FEMA’s previous two Strategic Plans, this plan commits the agency, and the nation, to taking proactive steps to increasing pre-disaster investments in preparedness and mitigation.”  

Ellison has requested a response by May 14. Read his letter below: 

This story has been updated with comment from FEMA.

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