Obama takes on climate-fueled storms

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President Obama on Friday demanded “new strategies” to boost the nation’s resilience to powerful storms, drought, heat waves and other dangerous weather linked to climate change.

Obama issued a wide-ranging executive order designed to support “climate resilient” infrastructure investment in states and communities.

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It also calls on federal agencies to change their policies and rules “to make the Nation's watersheds, natural resources, and ecosystems, and the communities and economies that depend on them, more resilient in the face of a changing climate.”

The executive order, echoing Obama’s second-term climate agenda released in June, recognizes that climate change is inevitable even as the U.S. takes steps to lower greenhouse gas emissions.

It sets up a new "interagency Council on Climate Preparedness and Resilience" and, to inform federal efforts, a "State, Local, and Tribal Leaders Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience."

The task force of state and local officials will provide ideas for "removing barriers to resilient investments, modernizing Federal grant and loan programs to better support local efforts, and developing the information and tools they need to prepare," the White House said.

Federal officials say extreme weather is a major economic threat. 

Disasters including Superstorm Sandy cost the U.S. economy more than $100 billion in 2012, according to the White House.

The new order recognizes the need to realign federal and state infrastructure policies around climate risks.

For instance, it seeks to “reform policies and Federal funding programs that may, perhaps unintentionally, increase the vulnerability of natural or built systems, economic sectors, natural resources, or communities to climate change related risks.”

Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said last year’s Superstorm Sandy — which caused widespread power outages and other damage — underscored the need for building resilience to climate change.

“The recent anniversary of Superstorm Sandy serves as a stark reminder of how disruptions to our nation’s critical infrastructure have far-reaching economic, health, safety and security impacts. As a country, we have a shared responsibility to prepare for storms of increasing intensity and frequency by improving the resilience of our communities to better withstand these events,” he said in a statement.

He said the executive order will strengthen federal partnerships with state, local and tribal communities to help harden energy infrastructure against climate change.

This post was updated at 11:14 a.m.  

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