Obama to propose $1 billion climate fund
By: Alex Guillen
February 14, 2014 07:56 AM EST
President Barack Obama will ask Congress to set up a $1 billion “Climate Resilience Fund” in his proposed budget next month.
Obama is traveling to Fresno, Calif., on Friday to discuss the drought plaguing most of California and the Western U.S. and to announce new administration actions, including the proposed billion-dollar climate fund.
The fund, according to the White House, would go to research on the projected impacts of climate change, help communities prepare for climate change’s effects and fund “breakthrough technologies and resilient infrastructure.”
It remains to be seen whether the administration can secure such a high figure from Congress for a climate fund not likely to attract widespread Republican backing.
White House spokesman Matt Lehrich told POLITICO that Obama “is going to continue to make the case that climate change is already hurting Americans around the country and that it will only get worse for our children and grandchildren if we leave it for future generations to deal with.”
The administration will also direct millions of dollars into livestock disaster assistance, conservation programs, watershed protection and food banks, and will work to cut back on water use at federal facilities, according to a White House fact sheet.
While no single extreme weather event can be attributed directly to climate change, Obama will stress the scientific understanding of how climate change makes events like the drought more extreme, said John Holdren, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.
“We really understand a number of the reasons that global climate change is increasing the intensity and the frequency and the life of drought in drought-prone regions,” Holdren told reporters Thursday night. “This is one of the better-understood dimensions of the relationship between global climate change and extreme weather in particular regions.”
Those effects include more rainfall that occurs in heavy downpours, meaning less is absorbed into the earth and more becomes runoff; more rain and less snowfall in the mountains, which means less melting snow to feed rivers in the spring and summer; and higher temperatures causing more evaporation.
“There are other, more subtle, ways climate change may be affecting the prevalence of drought; scientists are still arguing about those,” Holdren said. “The three I just described are more than enough to understand why we are seeing droughts in drought-prone regions becoming more frequent, more severe and longer.”
The administration’s new push to address the drought comes a week after the Agriculture Department announced it would set up a series of “climate hubs” across the U.S. to study climate change’s impacts on agriculture and rural activities and develop mitigation and adaptation measures.
Visiting Fresno on Friday, Obama will tour a farm and sit in on a round table with area leaders. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Gov. Jerry Brown, Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Michael Connor, and Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein are slated to accompany Obama.