The Biden administration announced a total of $6 billion in funding for climate resilience on the same day it released the fifth national climate assessment.
The funding opportinity unveiled Tuesday included $3.9 billion to bolster the U.S. electric grid, representing almost two-thirds of the total funds announced.
The National Climate Assessment's cost estimates of extreme weather events don't account for deaths, healthcare-related costs or ecosystem damages, but still the annual price tag comes out to at least $150 billion. The nation now sees a disaster that costs at least $1 billion every three weeks. In the 1980s, such events happened every four months.
Despite the nation's progress on climate pollution reduction, it is not on track to meet its national and international commitments, the report warns. To do so, the U.S. would have to reduce annual emissions by more than 6% a year on average until reaching net-zero emissions in 2050. That's a large increase from the less than 1% a year that the nation cut greenhouse gas emissions between 2005 and 2019.
In other words, the race is on for communities to prepare for increasing climate change, which is primarily driven by burning fossil fuels. The National Climate Assessment finds that since 2018, the number of city- and state-level climate adaptation plans and actions has increased by 32%. But as with mitigation, these adaptation efforts are insufficient to keep pace with future changes in climate, the report warns.
Most of the nation's adaptation actions are what the report calls "incremental" rather than "transformative." For example, people just use more air conditioning during heat waves rather than redesigning cities and buildings to deal with high temperatures. Communities may consume less water during droughts rather than match water-intensive industries with projected rainfall patterns. Transformative change means directing new housing development to less flood-prone areas, rather than elevating homes above floodwaters, the report says.
Transformative adaptation is more effective when it considers disparities in how and why people are affected by climate change, the report says. "Examples include understanding how differing levels of access to disaster assistance constrain recovery outcomes or how disaster damage exacerbates long-term wealth inequality," it says.
The report's authors also say that adaptation measures with the greatest potential for long-term benefits are those that are developed with inclusive, participatory planning along with coordinated governance and financing. They point to states like California and Florida that have informal regional collaborations.
The funding Biden announced today includes:
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