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Climate Plans for 23 U.S. Agencies Stress Urgency, Action

After a summer that saw one in three Americans experiencing extreme weather events, the Biden administration has released plans from 23 government agencies to address wide-ranging threats from climate change.

“If this year has shown us anything, it’s that climate change poses an ongoing urgent and systemic risk to our economy and to the lives and livelihoods of everyday Americans, and we must act now,” White House National Climate Advisor Gina McCarthy told media. 

The main themes of the plans include protecting workers from extreme heat events, fortifying supply chains to withstand climate disasters, and assessing the disproportionate impacts of air quality and heat on low-income communities. “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for instance, has developed a tool to provide heat data paired with local vulnerability data for emergency and public health planners to protect people from worsening heat events,” reports CNBC, citing the White House release.

In a fact sheet about the 23 agency plans, the White House writes that, as a set, they “reflect President Biden’s whole-of-government approach to confronting the climate crisis as agencies integrate climate-readiness across their missions and programs and strengthen the resilience of federal assets from the accelerating impacts of climate change.” 

The reports from each agency include adaptation plans and assessments of how climate change is already affecting federal government operations. The Department of Agriculture noted that “changes in temperature, increases in floods and droughts, more pests and disease will all affect America’s food supply,” while the Department of Housing and Urban Development warned that affordable housing is increasingly at risk from extreme weather and rising sea levels, says NBC News.

Other warnings include the Education Department’s report of increased school closings because of wildfires, the Transportation Department’s projection of asphalt roads degrading from extreme heat, and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s assessment of climate change as a “destabilizing force” that is undermining military operations. The Department of Homeland Security added that droughts and storms will increase migration across the U.S. border from vulnerable countries like Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean, NBC writes.

Still to come from the federal government is a report on climate financial risk from U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, head of the Financial Stability Oversight Council, reports Public Citizen. The report was expected to be released at a meeting of the FSOC on October 18, but the meeting has been delayed to October 21.

“We know Secretary Yellen recognizes the dangers of the fossil-fuelled climate crisis on our communities, financial system, and economy,” said Brett Fleischman, head of finance campaigns at 350.org, in an interview with Public Citizen. “It’s time for her to take swift and responsible action by limiting the risky practices of climate destroyers on Wall Street with strong provisions in this report.” 

Oil Change International is also pressing for additional action by the Biden administration to address emissions from fossil fuel infrastructure. A recent report from the organization quantifies life cycle greenhouse gas emissions for two dozen planned or active projects that the president has the power to halt. Combined, the 24 projects would release combined emissions equivalent to roughly 20% of what the country produced in 2019.

“If the Biden administration does not stop these fossil fuel infrastructure projects, it will be much more difficult to meet its U.S. and global climate goals and commitments, including under the Paris Agreement, and humanity will face increasingly worse domestic and global impacts,” Oil Change says.