On Sunday, Trump abandoned the coastal United States in their efforts to prepare and plan against the effects of climate change, specifically denying them information to assess the impact of sea level rise on new construction and the means to prevent tidal incursion into roadways, businesses, and private homes that make up coastal communities.
In yet another move that indicates the White House does not take the threat of climate change seriously, the Trump administration has disbanded a federal advisory panel that worked to translate the government’s climate data into actionable insight for policymakers and the private sector…[.]
The Board of the Committee for Sustained Climate Assessment was made up of 15 persons representing private and public corporations, utilities, climate researchers and local public officials. Its purpose was to interpret federal data—the same data relied upon by the Department of Defense in formulating our national security policy—for private and public construction projects and to advise local communities how to plan their projects to account for climate change.
Here is an example of why this Board was critical:
As an example of why the advisory committee was important, the Post reports that they were working to make sure the American Society of Civil Engineers would get the detailed data they needed to help develop new building codes based on the National Climate Assessment, rather than on historical weather records which are no longer likely to be adequate by themselves.
Last week the Trump Administration by Executive Order revoked a rule promulgated during President Obama’s Administration which would require building projects on coastal plains and those receiving federal aid to account for sea level rise:
The reason for that rule was that rising sea levels, in addition to more extreme weather, will likely result in more serious and more frequent flooding for such infrastructure, so the rule was a way to mandate that those projects be engineered with that likelihood in mind. Now, per the White House, it will be left to state and local officials to set their own standards for the projects, and without advice from the disbanded panel.
Those would be the same state and local officials in places like Georgia, South Carolina, Mississippi and Texas whose legislatures are made up of climate change denialists from the Republican Party. In other words, the Federal government is ceding the responsibility to protect our coastal towns and cities to the very people who are ideologically incapable of making informed decisions about infrastructure planning due to climate change.
Local governments who are seeing their cities being inundated by rising ocean tides and seeing their expensive infrastructures at risk have pressed the federal government for the very type of building advice this panel provides. Chairman Richard Moss of the now-disbanded Committee chose his words carefully:
“It doesn’t seem to be the best course of action,” said Moss, an adjunct professor in the University of Maryland’s Department of Geographical Sciences, and he warned of consequences for the decisions that state and local authorities must make on a range of issues from building road projects to maintaining adequate hydropower supplies. “We’re going to be running huge risks here and possibly end up hurting the next generation’s economic prospects.”
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, whose job, unlike Mr. Moss’, is not at risk, was more blunt:
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray (D) said in an interview Saturday that the move to dissolve the committee represents “an example of the president not leading, and the president stepping away from reality.”
Next time you see pictures of your favorite beach town being drowned by coastal flooding, imagine the costs to that community, its water and sewer lines, all of its subsurface infrastructure. Then imagine the sheer damage to private and public buildings by such flooding. What Trump has done here is take away one of the most valuable tools for those communities to plan for and prevent that type of damage. Neither the states nor these local communities have the funding to commission such studies on their own, even if they had a political class of representation willing to do so.
There is no excuse for this action beyond wholesale disregard and a complete lack of interest about what happens to the American people.
In other words, par for the course for Donald Trump.