The Ongoing Debate Over Disaster Relief and Climate Change Collide

After more than a year of negotiations, the Senate appears to have moved closer to an agreement on disaster funding for Puerto Rico, Florida, and California. 

According to Politico, Senators Richard Shelby (R-AL) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT), the chair and ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, respectively, and the President are near an agreement that will provide $17 billion in assistance to communities recently impacted by disasters, though the amount going directly to Puerto Rico remains under discussion.  

Sadly, it is likely that the debate around how much the federal government should spend to respond to the impacts of disasters on states, counties, cities, and regions will continue as more and more data suggest that climate change and weather-related disasters are likely to be on-going and have more severe consequences than previously thought. 

Early Monday, hundreds of scientists, working under the auspices of the United Nations, gathered in Paris for the release of a summary report that was approved by 132 nations, including the United States.  The report focuses on the unanticipated impact that climate change and weather-related disasters are likely to have.  New and profoundly significant impacts on plants and animals and the ecosystems in which they live, and upon which humans are dependent, are now predicted.  

The report states that changes in weather patterns such as those being experienced in the Midwest and Mississippi and Missouri River Basins right now, the severity of storms and sea level rise, the elimination of coastal wetlands and inundation of fresh water supplies by salt water, and continued melting of the polar ice caps, will result in the extinction of a million plant and animal species. The report adds that once flourishing ecosystems are likely to all but disappear because humans are transforming the earth’s natural landscapes so dramatically.

While short term political battles, such as the one we are seeing over disaster relief for Puerto Rico and some states, are likely to continue, there can be no doubt, given the most recent reports on climate change, that funding for disaster relief will continue into the foreseeable future as we face an increasing number of climate change and weather-related disasters.

Neil Bomberg

About the Author

Neil Bomberg
I am a highly experienced public sector lobbyist committed to ensuring that the issues important to regions and the local governments they represent are heard in Congress and the Administration. My issue areas include: budget and appropriations, human services, health care, workforce development, and economic and community development. I worked as a lobbyist at the National Association of Counties and National League of Cities for more than 26 years where I focused on labor and employment, and human development, respectively.

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