President Obama surprised many people when he said last week in his inaugural address: “We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires and crippling drought and more powerful storms.”
“Powerful storms,” of course calls to mind Hurricane Sandy, the October super-storm that swept away our illusions that if we ignore climate change, it will go away. And this week, we are pleased to report that Congress finally acted to fund recovery in the areas so hard hit by that storm.
The $50 billion relief bill is important to Defenders’ priorities because it recognizes that restoring and rebuilding our natural infrastructure is just as important to our communities as rebuilding our roads, homes and businesses. We have long known that natural wetlands, dunes, forests and floodplains can absorb some of the impact from a major storm, thereby protecting communities from the ravages of winds and flooding. But the Sandy supplemental makes a historic commitment to restoring and preserving coastal areas as part of a comprehensive plan to prevent future storm damage. (See our previous blog for details on the contents of the bill.)
It remains to be seen whether 2013 will mark the point where we finally embark on the road to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and the “path towards sustainable energy sources” that the president spoke of last week. That will be the real key to reducing the risk of more billion-dollar weather disasters in the future. By providing the funding to increase resiliency by harnessing the protective power of restored ecosystems, Congress has at least taken a step in the right direction.