Biden Administration Mounts Whole-of-Government Response to Address Extreme Heat Impacting Nearly Half of U.S. and Boosting Climate Resilience
Today, National Climate Advisor Gina McCarthy convened the fourth National Climate Task Force meeting where she was joined by Cabinet members and senior leadership from 17 federal agencies. During the meeting, Biden Administration officials discussed the whole-of-government effort taking place to address historic and severe climate impacts currently facing communities across the United States, including record breaking heat waves, unprecedented drought and water scarcity, and devastating wildfires. Task Force members discussed a sobering summer outlook, identified near-term readiness plans in the face of extreme weather risks, and laid out long-term resilience measures that will help the nation fend off the worst impacts of climate change.
Additionally, agency leadership shared the climate-related challenges they are working to address:
- Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra emphasized that record-breaking heat waves across the nation’s Western States pose a severe public health threat to tens of thousands of Americans, particularly in disadvantaged or vulnerable communities. The Center for Disease Control’s National Syndromic Surveillance Program data show that cases of heat related emergency room hospital visits increased from 857, in the first week of May, to 5313 in the week of June 13-19 – a six-fold increase.
- Interior Secretary Deb Haaland discussed how climate-related impacts are displacing certain coastal communities, especially tribal and indigenous communities, in regions already dramatically influenced by climate change. More and more Alaska Native villages, for example, are experiencing increasingly dire impacts from climate change, including receding summer sea ice; storm-fueled coastal erosion; and thawing permafrost, which presents a risk to food security. President Biden’s American Jobs Plan includes a $2B investment for transition and relocation assistance to support community-led transitions in the most vulnerable communities.
- Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack spoke about ongoing efforts to combat wildfire and drought, including a focus on forest management and natural solutions. He emphasized the Agriculture Department’s focus on building resilience to these challenges through climate-smart agriculture and forestry management. This approach is mirrored in President Biden’s American Job’s Plan, which includes an investment of more than $50B in resilience in the face of a changing climate.
- Housing and Urban Development Deputy Secretary Adrianne Todman noted that our nation’s low-income families and communities of color are particularly susceptible to the impacts of climate change due to historic disinvestment, aging infrastructure, and the legacy of residential segregation. For example, historically the nation’s public housing stock has not been built to withstand extreme temperatures, thereby exacerbating health risks and resulting in crippling energy costs for residents. To address this need, HUD’s FY22 budget request proposes $800 million in energy, resilience, and healthy retrofits for federally subsidized housing and housing in Native American communities.
- White House Council on Environmental Quality Chair Brenda Mallory noted that one of the most powerful and cost-effective strategies for combatting climate change and protecting communities from its impacts is through the conservation and restoration of natural lands and waters. Chair Mallory provided an update on the work that Federal agencies are doing through the Administration’s America the Beautiful initiative to support locally-led, voluntary stewardship efforts and to pursue the first-ever national conservation goal.
To ensure resilient federal operations and physical footprints, agencies are preparing Climate Action Plans, per President Biden’s Executive Order 14008. These plans parallel many of the nation’s climate related vulnerabilities, including natural resources such as land and water resources; financial risk — including risks to assets, supplies, and services; and the health, safety, and availability of the Federal workforce.
- Acting Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Stacy Cummings emphasized that around the world, climate change is a destabilizing force, creating new missions and impacting the operational environment. At the same time, climate-related extreme weather can affect military readiness and drain resources. For these reasons, the Department of Defense focused their Climate Adaptation Plan on building resilience across the entire Department in alignment with warfighting requirements.
- Deputy Transportation Secretary Polly Trottenberg spoke about how the Department of Transportation is using their Climate Action Plan to explore a range of strategies that will guide decision making to make our transportation infrastructure more resilient. These strategies include building stronger or better by retrofitting existing infrastructure, adding network redundancy, relocating transportation assets to less vulnerable locations, and improving maintenance and operational strategies to respond to disruptions.
As outlined by President Biden’s January 27 executive order on tackling the climate, the Task Force is chaired by the National Climate Advisor and includes Cabinet-level leaders from 21 federal agencies and senior White House officials to mobilize the Biden-Harris Administration’s implementation of a whole-of-government approach.
Task Force membership is comprised of the following government officials:
- National Climate Advisor (Chair)
- Secretary of the Treasury
- Secretary of Defense
- Attorney General
- Secretary of the Interior
- Secretary of Agriculture
- Secretary of Commerce
- Secretary of Education
- Secretary of Labor
- Secretary of Health and Human Services
- Secretary of Housing and Urban Development
- Secretary of Transportation
- Secretary of Energy
- Secretary of Homeland Security
- Administrator of General Services
- Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality
- Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency
- Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration
- Director of the Office of Management and Budget
- Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy
- Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy
- Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
- Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism
- Assistant to the President for Economic Policy