Presidential Order Creates Task Force To Deal with Climate Impacts and Costs

Presidential order begins critical work to protect vulnerable communities across country


Liz Judge, Earthjustice, (415) 217-2007

Today, through an executive order, President Obama created a task force to aid state and local governments in preparing for climate change and building resiliency. The task force includes the governors of California, Washington, Hawaii, Delaware, Maryland, Vermont, Illinois, and the mayors of Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and Houston. The executive order also directs federal agencies to do more to plan for climate change.

The following is a statement by Earthjustice president Trip Van Noppen:
“Climate change impacts are happening now, and they affect us all. We commend the President for underscoring the critical role the federal government plays in protecting communities from the devastating impacts of climate change. Safeguarding our coastal wetlands, drinking water supplies, and intact wildlife habitat is vital. We particularly appreciate the Executive Order’s direction to take federal actions that promote the health of watersheds and natural systems, at the same time we reduce carbon pollution. While we invest in safeguarding our communities from storms, floods, wildfire, and drought that are intensifying year after year, we have to address the climate threat head on by investing in clean energy instead of fossil fuels.”

More information on the costs of climate change:

  • National Costs:
    • As reported by the AP, Hurricane Sandy cost NJ $65 billion and Hurricane Katrina cost $125 billion in economic losses for all states impacted.
    • According to research prepared for FEMA, every $1 spent on community resilience reduces disaster costs by $4.
    • From fiscal year 2011 to 2013, American taxpayers spent nearly $6 in disaster cleanup and recovery for every $1 spent in community resilience.
    • A recent study estimates that average annual losses from flooding in the world’s biggest coastal cities — including New York City, Miami, New Orleans, Boston, and Tampa Bay — could rise to $1 trillion per year by 2050. These cities now spend about $6 billion per year combined on flood losses.
  • Washington:
    • Recent research tells us that if no action is taken, potential costs to Washington from climate change impacts are projected to reach nearly $10 billion per year by 2020 from increased health costs, storm damage, coastal destruction, rising energy costs, increased wildfires, drought, and other impacts. By taking action now, Washington can prevent damages and save billions of dollars in damage costs.
  • California:
    • A report by the California Environmental Protection Agency Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) outlines climate change’s severe costs on California’s water supplies, farm industry, forests, wildlife and public health. Over the past century, water levels have risen along the California coast by an average of 7 inches (18 centimeters), and levels have risen by 8 inches (20 centimeters) at the Golden Gate; and annual acreage burned by wildfires since 2000 is double the rate of the previous 50 years, from less than 300,000 acres to almost 600,000.
    • According to the California’s state strategy for adapting to climate change, average temperature in California is expected to rise up to five degrees by 2050 (and twice that by 2100) while precipitation drops up to 35 percent. The report also predicts sea level to rise up to 18 inches by 2050 and 55 inches by 2100, which would submerge a significant portion of the state’s 800-mile coastline and cost an estimated $100 billion in damages.

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Earthjustice is the premier nonprofit environmental law organization. We wield the power of law and the strength of partnership to protect people's health, to preserve magnificent places and wildlife, to advance clean energy, and to combat climate change. We are here because the earth needs a good lawyer.