Obama Wants Congress to Help With Climate Agenda After All

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In this Sept. 19, 2012, photo corn plants weakened by the drought lie on the ground after being knocked over by rain in Bennington, Neb.
National Journal
Ben Geman
Feb. 14, 2014, 3:46 a.m.

Pres­id­ent Obama’s up­com­ing 2015 budget plan will pro­pose a $1 bil­lion Cli­mate Re­si­li­ence Fund to help com­munit­ies na­tion­wide pre­pare for ex­treme weath­er linked to glob­al warm­ing, the White House an­nounced Fri­day.

The big-tick­et pieces of the White House cli­mate agenda, not­ably car­bon-emis­sions reg­u­la­tions for power plants, rely on ex­ec­ut­ive powers at a time when cli­mate le­gis­la­tion is dead on Cap­it­ol Hill.

But the newly pro­posed “re­si­li­ence” fund, which will be in the budget plan re­leased in March, would re­quire ap­prov­al from Con­gress. The fund would add to ex­ec­ut­ive ac­tions aimed at help­ing cit­ies and towns harden de­fenses against cli­mat­ic changes that are already un­der­way.

“We know that, sci­en­tific­ally, no single epis­ode of ex­treme weath­er, no storm, no flood, no drought can be said to have been caused by glob­al cli­mate change. But the glob­al cli­mate has now been so ex­tens­ively im­pacted by the hu­man-caused buildup of green­house gases that weath­er prac­tic­ally every­where is be­ing in­flu­enced by cli­mate change,” said John Hold­ren, the White House sci­ence ad­viser, on a call with re­port­ers Thursday.

The pro­posed fund would in­vest in re­search and “un­lock” data and in­form­a­tion to im­prove know­ledge of the ef­fects of cli­mate change and how to bet­ter pre­pare com­munit­ies and in­fra­struc­ture, the White House said. It would also as­sist loc­al pre­par­a­tion ef­forts and “fund break­through tech­no­lo­gies and re­si­li­ent in­fra­struc­ture,” ac­cord­ing to a sum­mary.

Obama is vis­it­ing drought-stricken Cali­for­nia on Fri­day, where he’s also an­noun­cing a pack­age of dis­aster as­sist­ance for Cali­for­nia and oth­er states that’s drawn from funds provided through the re­cently passed farm bill.

Cali­for­nia alone could re­ceive up to $100 mil­lion for its 2014 losses. Na­tion­wide aid could total about $1 bil­lion, of­fi­cials said.

Of­fi­cials said they are speed­ing up the pro­cess for pro­du­cers to ac­cess dis­aster as­sist­ance. Ag­ri­cul­ture Sec­ret­ary Tom Vil­sack said the pro­cess usu­ally takes six to eight months, but that fed­er­al of­fi­cials plan to com­press the ap­plic­a­tion timeline down to two months, with checks ar­riv­ing shortly there­after.

“The pres­id­ent will dir­ect the De­part­ment of Ag­ri­cul­ture to ac­cel­er­ate in an his­tor­ic ef­fort to get the dis­aster pro­grams now au­thor­ized un­der the farm bill to a point where farm­ers and pro­du­cers in Cali­for­nia and across the coun­try will be able to ap­ply for dis­aster as­sist­ance,” Vil­sack said.

Obama is slated to vis­it a Fresno-area farm and speak with farm­ers and oth­ers af­fected by drought, and he’s also de­liv­er­ing a speech, the White House said.

“You can cer­tainly ex­pect that the pres­id­ent will talk about the con­nec­tion between the in­creas­ing fre­quency and in­tens­ity of droughts and cli­mate change,” Hold­ren said.

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