KERRY TELLS ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS TO PLAN FOR GLOBAL WARMING
Today, Senators John Kerry (D-MA), Russ Feingold (D-WI) and Susan Collins (R-ME) introduced an amendment to ensure the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers considers the effects of climate change when planning water projects. The amendment, offered to the Water Resources Development Act, requires the Corps to use the best available climate science, account for potential future impacts of climate change on storms and floods, and account for the costs and benefits associated with the loss and protection of wetlands, floodplains, and other natural systems that can buffer the effects of climate change. Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Joseph Biden (D-DE) and Tom Carper (D-DE) also co-sponsored the amendment.
Senator Kerry said, "We must address global climate change before it's too late -- the impacts are real and here today. If we are serious about preventing and responding to climate change, we need to start taking those impacts into consideration for every project we start. I strongly urge the Army Corps to incorporate considerations like sea level rise and storm activity into its planning. We can no longer afford to delay."
"Natural systems like wetlands and floodplains can act as important buffers between hurricanes or other severe storms and coastal communities," Senator Feingold said. "When Corps projects destroy these and other types of natural barriers, they may put lives at risk. The Corps must take into account what effects its projects will have on the environment in order to ensure the safety of communities."
"The Homeland Security Committee's investigation of the Hurricane Katrina disaster showed the catastrophic consequences of being ill-prepared for a natural disaster. Our more recent hearing revealed that federal programs have not taken climate change into account in their underwriting or budgets," said Senator Collins. "It is absolutely critical that the Army Corps prepare for the potential impacts of global climate change, which are expected to include increased droughts, floods, and more intense hurricanes. I am pleased to join Senators Kerry and Feingold in offering this important amendment."
Senator Sanders said, "You really can't fool Mother Nature, not even if you're the Army Corps of Engineers. That's why the Corps must consider climate change as it plans projects. Because global warming already is making bad storms worse, we need to protect people from the short-term impact of climate change while we work on a long-term solution to reverse global warming."
A 2007 United Nations Report by the Scientific Expert Group on Climate Change stated that, "Human health...will be threatened by increases in the intensity and frequency of storms, floods, droughts, and heat-related mortality." The loss of these natural barriers can leave communities vulnerable as demonstrated by the effects of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Healthy wetlands can also help minimize the impacts of drought as well as providing critical habitats for fish and other wildlife.
Kerry-Feingold-Collins Global Climate Change Amendment to WRDA
Planning ahead to protect communities from the effects of global climate change
The Kerry-Feingold-Collins global climate change amendment requires the Corps of Engineers to account for the potential effects of climate change when planning water projects to better protect communities and the environment.
The amendment requires the Corps to use the best available climate science, account for potential future impacts of climate change on storms and floods, and account for the costs and benefits associated with the loss and protection of wetlands, floodplains, and other natural systems that can buffer the affects of climate change. Building on existing law and policy, the amendment also requires the Corps to use nonstructural approaches, where appropriate, in project planning to help protect such natural systems.
Global climate change threatens community health and safety. Scientists expect an increase in extreme weather events, including more powerful storms, more frequent floods and extended droughts. All too often, Corps projects damage or destroy healthy streams, wetlands and floodplains that provide important buffers against these effects of global climate change.
Healthy rivers, streams, wetlands, and floodplains reduce the impacts of flooding by acting as natural sponges and basins, absorbing flood waters and releasing them slowly over time. Coastal wetlands provide vital barriers between storm surges and communities. When these wetlands are lost, coastal communities are far more vulnerable to disaster, as we saw so tragically during Hurricane Katrina. Healthy wetlands help minimize the impacts of drought by recharging groundwater supplies and filtering pollutants from drinking water. They also provide critical habitat for fish and wildlife, and important recreational opportunities.
What the Experts Are Saying
"Human health ... will be threatened by increases in the intensity and frequency of storms, floods, droughts, and heat-related mortality." Scientific Expert Group on Climate Change, United Nations Report 2007.
Flood damage reduction management efforts are "shifting away from reliance on physical structures to effective management of flood plains, including restricting development, using wetlands, and trying to re-create the ability of rivers to spread floods to avoid concentrated downstream impacts. These adaptations may be effective if implemented in response to climate change, but would be more effective if implemented in anticipation of climate change." U.S. National Assessment of the Potential Consequences of Climate Variability and Change, 2001 (emphasis added).