The U.S. government will double its emergency spending budget to help communities prepare for hurricanes and other extreme weather events, President Joe Biden announced Monday.
Biden traveled to FEMA headquarters in Washington Monday to receive a briefing from the agency on preparations being made for the 2021 hurricane season.
“We have to be ready,” Biden said at the meeting. “We’re going to spare no expense to keep Americans safe. It’s not about red states and blues states — it’s about having people’s backs in the toughest moments that they face.”
FEMA will provide $1 billion for the Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities, or BRIC program, which helps states, local communities, tribes and territories to develop projects to prepare for and reduce risks from disasters and natural hazards.
The $1 billion announced Monday is just a small fraction of what the U.S. spends on weather-related disasters. Last year alone, the nation experienced 22 weather and climate-related disasters, including wildfires, hurricanes, and snowstorms. They had a cumulative price tag of $100 billion.
So far this year, the U.S. has already seen significant severe weather, including a massive winter storm that caused blackouts in Texas and other states. Forecasters predicted a busy Atlantic hurricane season, but not one as severe as 2020’s record-breaking year. Officials also expect another destructive summer of wildfires in the West following one of the worst fire-years on record in 2020.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said last week that the hurricane season, which runs from June through November, will likely see 13 to 20 named storms, including at least six that will become hurricanes and three to five categorized as major hurricanes with winds of more than 110 mph.
As climate change threatens to bring more extreme events such as increased floods, rising sea levels and intensifying droughts and wildfires, the White House said it is the government’s responsibility to better prepare and support communities before disasters occur, rather than simply respond afterward.
The White House also said it will develop a new NASA mission concept for an Earth System Observatory that will forecast and monitor natural disasters. The Earth System Observatory will deploy advanced technology in space to improve understanding of interactions between Earth’s atmosphere, land, ocean and ice, helping determine how climate change will play out in the near and long term.
The steps announced Monday are part of Biden’s pledge to elevate climate change as a major priority. Biden has set a target to cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by up to 52% below 2005 levels by 2030. He also has said he expects to adopt a clean energy standard that would make electricity carbon-free by 2035, along with the wider goal of net-zero carbon emissions economywide by 2050.