At the start of each new Congress, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) puts out a "High Risk List" in order to highlight the most pressing fiscal vulnerabilities the federal government faces. On February 14, 2013, for the first time ever, the "High Risk List" warned of a future that will bring increased intensity and frequency of severe weather events as a result of our changing climate.
As a nation we are far from prepared for this future.
In the past two years alone, extreme weather events resulted in: 109 presidential major disaster declarations, 20 events that each inflicted at least $1 billion in damage, and 409 fatalities and $130 billion in economic losses in 44 states caused by these 20 events. We simply cannot afford to ignore the increasing threat of such events in the future.
The federal government needs a strategic approach that includes strong leadership and the ability to manage weather related risks. The challenge of developing such an approach is complex: It must not only encompass all levels of government but must also be developed in a bipartisan manner.
President Obama, on Nov. 1, 2013, signed into law an Executive Order to enhance extreme weather preparedness and resilience. Specifically, the order is aimed at creating the needed infrastructure within the Executive Branch to incorporate resiliency, preparedness, and risk management across the federal government.
In order to better prepare for extreme weather, protect government and private sector resources, and create a more resilient society, I have drafted legislation that builds on the president's order and utilizes the recommendations of the GAO.
The PREPARE Act (Preparedness and Risk management for Extreme weather Patterns Assuring Resilience), would create an oversight process that requires agencies to implement government-wide resiliency, preparedness, and risk management priorities; works with local and state planners to identify regional issues and facilitates the adoption of resiliency, preparedness, and risk management best practices; and establishes a regional coordination plan to ensure greater cooperation among the many regional efforts in order to ensure cost-effectiveness, complementarity, and optimal reach.
Given the extreme weather events of the last two years and the massive economic losses this nation has incurred as a result, we all understand that the government needs to be better prepared and has to protect itself from future financial losses. The only challenge larger than finding a strategic approach to weather related risks is doing so with the support of my colleagues from the left and the right.
In order to appeal to my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, I would direct members' attention to the cost of this legislation: $0. We can spend no money while also having the possibility of saving taxpayers billions of dollars from future extreme weather events.
This post is part of a series from the Safe Climate Caucus. The Caucus is comprised of 38 members of the House of Representatives who have committed to ending the conspiracy of silence in Congress about the dangers of climate change. For more information, visit the Safe Climate Caucus website and like the Safe Climate Caucus on Facebook.