17 July 2014

Obama unveils climate change task force

US president Barack Obama announced a range of initiatives on Wednesday aimed at boosting climate change mitigation and adaptation across the country.

The new projects will focus on energy supply, coastal and flood protection, and better monitoring and measuring of rising sea levels.

Obama’s State, Local and Tribal Leaders Task Force on Climate Preparedness, is made up of 26 officials who have been working since last year to produce the proposals and various federal agencies will be involved.

The task force will primarily deal with the prevention of droughts and the impacts of storm surges.

A White House study published earlier this year concluded that the nation’s energy supply was in particular need of guarding against climate change.

Rising temperatures would see a surge in demand for energy, while the power supply would be put under strain with extreme weather conditions damaging power lines and stations.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced it will award US$236.3 million (£138 million) to eight states to improve the sustainability of energy services.

USDA has also unveiled plans to assist rural areas suffering from drought – a problem that is becoming more frequent and severe in some states.

The US Geological Survey has pledged US$13.1 million (£7.7 million) for the development of advanced three-dimensional mapping data that would allow states and cities to prepare for natural disasters and severe weather.

The 3-D Elevation Program is designed to make it quicker to update flood maps and easier to find ideal sites for wind turbines and solar panels. It employs LIDAR (light detection and ranging) technology that uses light from lasers to measure the elevation of a location.

The initiatives will also assess disease prevention; a recent guide, published by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, titled Assessing Health Vulnerability to Climate Change lists ways in which complex “climatic factors (like temperature, humidity, precipitation, extreme weather events, and sea-level rise) can directly or indirectly affect the prevalence of disease.”

The Bureau of Indian Affairs has also announced a US$10 million (£5.8 million) programme to assist Native American tribes in their climat5e change adaptation efforts.

These initiatives come as part of Obama’s general climate change programme, where he intends to cut the nation’s general carbon emissions by moving away from fossil fuels and increasing restrictions on emissions.

The new strategy involves a plan to cut emissions by 30 per cent, with potential economic benefits ranging up to US$82 billion (£42 billion).

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