Obama signs executive order to prepare the U.S. for climate change

The order acknowledges that reducing emissions won't do enough to prevent future disasters

By Lindsay Abrams

Published November 1, 2013 4:32PM (EDT)

"The impacts of climate change -- including an increase in prolonged periods of excessively high temperatures, more heavy downpours, an increase in wildfires, more severe droughts, permafrost thawing, ocean acidification and sea-level rise -- are already affecting communities, natural resources, ecosystems, economies and public health across the Nation," reads an executive order signed this morning by President Obama.

The order's purpose is to coordinate federal agencies and help communities increase resilience to these events, as the New York Times first reported last night:

For instance, when federal money is being spent on projects like roads, bridges, flood control and many others, the plan would encourage greater attention to the likely climate conditions of the future, which might require making the structures stronger or larger.

“All of that is now going to be shaped by the awareness of climate change, and the things that can be done to make those investments produce a much more resilient society,” said John P. Holdren, the president’s science adviser.

It also sets up a Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience to advise on federal policy. So far, the governor of Guam is the only Republican governor who's agreed to serve on the task force; he'll be joining six Democrats, along with local leaders from both parties.

According to the Times, the White House emphasized that reducing greenhouse gas emissions is still a priority. But the focus on adaptation and preparedness acknowledges that even if Obama meets his promised goal of a 17 percent reduction by 2020, the effects of climate change will be difficult to prevent.

Lindsay Abrams

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