WASHINGTON (AP) — Vice President Kamala Harris on Monday called climate change an “immediate” and “urgent” crisis as she outlined the Biden administration’s efforts to respond to disasters such as deadly floods in Kentucky and wildfires ravaging her home state of California.
Harris would announce more than $1 billion in grants available to states to address flooding and extreme heat exacerbated by climate change. The competitive grants will help communities across the country prepare for and respond to climate-related disasters.
Harris visited the National Hurricane Center before the grant announcement and said on Monday that disasters such as the Kentucky flood and California wildfires show “how immediate, how topical and how urgent is the issue of tackling the extreme weather we’ve been experiencing across the country and the world.”
In 2021, the United States experienced 20 climate-related disasters, each causing more than $1 billion in damage, Harris said, citing a report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. In the 1990s, there were about six such disasters per year.
“The frequency has accelerated in a relatively short time,” Harris said. “The science is clear. Extreme weather will only get worse, and the climate crisis will only accelerate.”
The White House is leading a government-wide response to climate disasters that “recognizes the urgency of the moment and our ability to do something about it,” she said.
The vice president was at the hurricane center for a briefing before visiting Florida International University, where she is expected to announce grants to defend against extreme weather events across the country.
President Joe Biden announced last month that the government will spend money on… $2.3 billion to help communities cope with rising temperatures through programs administered by FEMA, the Department of Health and Human Services, and other agencies. The move doubles spending on the Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities, or BRIC, program, which supports states, local communities, tribes and territories in projects to reduce climate-related hazards and prepare for natural disasters such as floods and wildfires.
“Communities across our country are experiencing firsthand the devastating effects of climate change and the related extreme weather events that follow — more energetic hurricanes with deadlier storm surges, more flooding and a year-long wildfire season,” FEMA said. head Deanne Criswell.
The funding announced Monday will “help ensure our most vulnerable communities are not left behind, with hundreds of millions of dollars ultimately going directly to the communities that need it most,” Criswell said.
A total of $1 billion will be made available through the BRIC program, and another $160 million will be offered for flood mitigation assistance, officials said.
Jacksonville, Florida, was one of the cities to receive funding under the BRIC program last year. The city was awarded $23 million for flood mitigation and stormwater infrastructure. Jacksonville, the largest city in Florida, is located in a humid, subtropical region along the St. Johns River and the Atlantic Ocean, making it vulnerable to flooding when the stormwater basins reach their capacity. The city experiences frequent flooding and is at risk of larger storms.
The South Florida Water Management District in Miami-Dade County received $50 million for flood mitigation and pump station repairs. Real estate development along the city’s burgeoning waterfront has created a high-risk floodplain for urban communities and strained existing systems, urgently requiring repairs to existing structures, officials said.
The Biden administration has launched a series of actions aimed at: reduce heat-related illness and protect public healthincluding a proposed heat standard in the workplace.