Obama: Climate change is 'direct threat' to US

President Obama said Wednesday that if nothing is done to mitigate the "direct threat" on infrastructure from climate change the U.S. will not remain "competitive in this 21st century economy."

To boost state, local and tribal defenses against climate change, Obama is pushing a slew of actions, which he announced Wednesday at a meeting with the White House Climate Change Task Force on Resilience and Preparedness.

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The initiatives include new data tools, millions to tribes for adaptation training, programs dedicated to rural electric infrastructure, and 3-D mapping to help state and local communities understand "which infrastructure are at risk," Obama said.

"Climate change poses a direct threat to the infrastructure of America that we need to stay competitive in this 21st century economy," Obama said at the meeting.

"That means that we should see this as an opportunity to do what we should be doing anyway, and that’s modernizing our infrastructure, modernizing our roads, modernizing our bridges, power grids, our transit systems, and making sure that they’re more resilient," Obama added.

The actions include a wide array of federal agencies that wouldn't otherwise engage in climate change mitigation efforts, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to the Federal Emergency Management Agency to the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Funding projects and new data tools are expected to help officials deal with high temperatures, rising sea levels, drought, wildfires and more.

"We’re going to help communities improve their electric grids, build stronger seawalls and natural barriers and protect their water supplies," Obama said.

The 3-D mapping system will be able to help with water resource planning, mitigating coastal erosion and identifying landslide areas, according to a White House fact sheet.

To aide tribes in developing and teaching adaptation training, the Interior Department will launch a new $10 million partnership between the federal government and tribal leaders on resilience and technical assistance. The task force, first formed by Obama last year, includes governors, mayors and tribal leaders from across the U.S., four of whom are Republicans.

"These leaders understand that climate change is a threat to public safety, it’s a threat to public health," Obama said.

"None of this should be a partisan issue," he added. "This is something that Democrats, Republicans, independents all care about and the leaders who are sitting around this table prove that today and prove it every day."

Other measures Obama announced Wednesday include new guidance for hazard plans for the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) to ensure states consider climate change in future planning efforts for natural disasters.

FEMA will also establish a Mitigation Integration Task Force to help communities build strong and safer in the aftermath of a disaster.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will provide new guidance on coastal management to make sure communities account for how climate change might impact coastal regions.

The new executive actions will likely add fuel to the fire for Republicans in Congress, who argue Obama's climate agenda is "executive overreach" and a "war on coal."
 
House Republicans have launched an assault on Obama's climate agenda over the last month, tethering as many anti-Environmental Protection Agency riders to appropriation bills as possible.