Thursday, June 20, 2013

What A Concept!

(Editorial cartoon by Joel Pett / Lexington Herald-Leader (May 22, 2013) and featured at McClatchy DC.  Click on image to enlarge and then return.)

It's been a rough couple of years in various spots around the country:  the East Coast (especially the Mid-Atlantic), the Gulf Coast, Tornado Alley, which has been widened because of some horrendous storms.  Whether one chooses to believe in climate change or not, it's hard to deny that some awful problems have arisen all over the nation due to weather related conditions.  This article focuses on the challenge for FEMA and suggests that preparedness is just as important as disaster relief.

Federal efforts to bolster community preparedness for extreme weather events are a fraction of what the government spends on cleaning up the damage from storms, tornadoes and drought, according to a new analysis of federal data by the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning Washington think tank.

The report estimated that from 2011 to 2013, the federal government spent about $136 billion on weather-related disaster relief and recovery but only $22.4 billion on a total of 43 preparedness programs, or about $6 in cleanup for every $1 spent on strengthening defenses or preventing or mitigating damage.

A growing body of climate science indicates that the warming atmosphere increases the likelihood of extreme weather-related events. In January, the National Climate Assessment, issued every four years by a federal advisory group, predicted more of the heavier rains in the Northeast, Midwest and Plains that have overwhelmed storm drains and led to flooding and erosion; sea-level rise that has battered coastal communities around the United States; drought that has turned much of the West into a tinderbox. ...

Preparing for disasters is costly, the report notes. For instance, the town of Edna, Texas, built a hurricane shelter big enough to protect its 5,500 residents from 300-mile-per-hour winds. The project cost $2.5 million, 75% of it provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which plans to invest about $680 million to build similar facilities in 18 other states.

The report found that of the $22.4 billion set aside for 43 federal programs aimed at building disaster resiliency, more than half, or $12 billion, was for Agriculture Department programs that foster sustainable agriculture and protect water resources from the effects of drought and floods. The remainder went to agencies such as Defense, Commerce, Homeland Security and Interior. ...

The study found that from fiscal year 2011 to fiscal year 2013, funding for preparedness programs that were not in the Agriculture department fell about $160 million.

The report recommends that a comprehensive assessment be undertaken to get a picture of local preparedness needs. It also recommends that a dedicated fund be created to support community resiliency projects, financed by a small increase in the royalty rate that companies pay for extracting fossil fuels from federal lands and waters.   [Emphasis added]

Whether one believes climate change is a hoax or not, preparing safe places for people to go to during storms and wild fires, building levees and dams in flood prone areas, and protecting land from the degradation of drought and man-made accidents is a smart move and, in the long-run, cheaper  than pouring billions into restoration after the fact.

It just makes sense.

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