Next year, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will start denying disaster funding to states that don’t incorporate global warming into their emergency preparedness plans.
Governors looking for disaster preparedness funding will have to start reporting on how man-made global warming will impact their states such as “more intense storms, frequent heavy precipitation, heat waves, drought, extreme flooding, and higher sea levels,” according to FEMA.
FEMA’s updated guidelines for disaster planning don’t affect federal relief funding for after a natural disaster like a hurricane or flood, but the guidelines essentially force some state governments to acknowledge the alleged risks of man-made warming.
InsideClimate News reports that most states have not updated their disaster planning to include global warming because FEMA’s 2008 policies didn’t have this requirement. Some states, like New York, however, have updated their disaster planning.
“This could potentially become a major conflict for several Republican governors,” Barry Rabe, a political scientist at the University of Michigan, told InsideClimate News. “We aren’t just talking about coastal state … This could affect state leaders across the country.”
Interestingly enough, FEMA’s disaster guidelines update comes after environmental groups attacked Florida Republican Gov. Rick Scott for supposedly not allowing state regulators to use the word “climate change” in official documents. Former Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) employees told the Miami Herald that Scott’s “unwritten policy” forbade such terms from being used.
“We were told not to use the terms ‘climate change,’ ‘global warming’ or ‘sustainability,’” Christopher Byrd, a former attorney at FDEP from 2008 to 2013, told the Herald. “That message was communicated to me and my colleagues by our superiors in the Office of General Counsel.”
“We were told that we were not allowed to discuss anything that was not a true fact,” echoed Kristina Trotta, another former DEP employee.
Scott himself has pushed back against such criticisms, saying he gave no such order to environmental regulators. But Scott’s denial has not stopped environmental activists from requesting an official investigation on the issue. CBS Miami reports that the group Forecast the Facts appeared at Scott’s office “with their mouths covered by duct tape emblazoned with the words ‘climate change,’” to drop off 43,000 electronically signed petitions requesting the state inspector general investigate.
The Scott issue was reported by the Herald the day before FEMA’s new policy guidelines to include global warming in state disaster plans were issued on March 9th. FEMA’s new guidelines have only fueled the fire behind Scott’s criticism because now federal bureaucrats could withhold millions in federal funds to Florida.
FEMA funding goes towards a wide variety of projects like raising buildings out of floodplains, and states are required to update their disaster mitigation plans every five years to keep getting federal money. FEMA has handed out more than $4.6 billion to states for disaster mitigation since 2010.