Biden Administration Issues Report on Threats of Climate Change: Airlines Grounded, Food Shortages, New Global Conflicts

President Joe Biden talks with people as he tours a neighborhood impacted by flooding from the remnants of Hurricane Ida, Tuesday, Sept. 7, 2021, in the Queens borough of New York, with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of N.Y., and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., right. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
AP Photo/Evan Vucci

President Joe Biden wasted no time in making fighting so-called climate change a priority, including issuing an executive order on January 27, 2020, tasking several federal agencies with developing plans to address the issue. And now those agencies have released a report citing the most pressing threats facing the United States.

The order said:

It is the policy of my administration that climate considerations shall be an essential element of United States foreign policy and national security. The United States will work with other countries and partners, both bilaterally and multilaterally, to put the world on a sustainable climate pathway.  The United States will also move quickly to build resilience, both at home and abroad, against the impacts of climate change that are already manifest and will continue to intensify according to current trajectories.

His order directed the U.S. Treasury, Defense, the U.S. Attorney General, Interior, Agriculture, Commerce, Labor, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Transportation, Energy, Homeland Security, and other agency personnel to develop plans.

The New York Times praised the development, criticizing President Donald Trump “whose disdain for climate science led most agencies to either shelve their planning for climate change or stop talking about it.” The report went on:

Within weeks of taking office, President Biden directed officials to quickly resume the work. Stressing the urgency of the threat, the president gave agencies four months to come up with plans that listed their main vulnerabilities to climate change and strategies to address them.

“Nearly every service that the government provides will be impacted by climate change sooner or later,” Jesse Keenan, a professor at Tulane University and advises federal agencies said in the Times report.

The Times is supportive of Biden after four years of reporting negatively on Trump’s policies:

The plans released Thursday are brief, many of them fewer than 30 pages. They include core themes: ensuring that new facilities meet tougher construction standards, using less energy and water at existing buildings, better protecting workers against extreme heat, educating staff about climate science, and creating supply chains that are less likely to be disrupted by storms or other shocks.

The documents also reflect Mr. Biden’s emphasis on racial equity, looking at the effects of climate change on minority and low-income communities and how agencies can address them. For example, the Department of Health and Human Services said it will focus research grants on the health effects on those communities.

But the most revealing information in the newly released plans could be their description, sometimes in frank terms, of the dangers that climate change holds.

The Department of Agriculture predicts food shortages — “changes in temperature and precipitation patterns, more pests and disease, reduced soil quality, fewer pollinating insects and more storms and wildfires will combine to reduce crops and livestock.”

The Department of Transportation:

…notes that rising temperatures will make it more expensive to build and maintain roads and bridges” and that “severe weather events will ‘require flight cancellations, sometimes for extended periods of time,’ and more heat will force planes to fly shorter distances and carry less weight.

“Even the quality of driving could get worse,” the Times reported. “The plan warns of ‘decreased driver/operator performance and decision-making skills, due to driver fatigue as a result of adverse weather.’

The Department of Homeland Security reported that climate change “means the risk of large numbers of climate refugees — people reaching the U.S. border, pushed out of their countries by a mix of long-term challenges like drought or sudden shocks like a tsunami,” the Times reported, adding:

Climate change is likely to increase population movements from Mexico, Central America, South America, and the Caribbean,” the department’s plan reads. The department is trying to develop “a responsive and coordinated operational plan for mass migration events.

The Defense Department said climate change could lead to new conflict and also will make it harder for the military to operate:

Water shortages could even become a new source of tension between the U.S. military overseas and the countries where troops are based. But learning to operate during extreme weather should also be viewed as a new type of weapon, the plan says, one that can help the United States prevail over enemies. 

“This enables U.S. forces to gain distinct advantages over potential adversaries,” the report said. “If our forces can operate in conditions where others must take shelter or go to ground.”

The Commerce Department said it expects “a surge in applications for patents for ‘climate change adaptation-related technologies,’” the Times reported.

The report said the this “would impact the department’s ability to process such applications in a timely manner, having a direct impact on U.S. competitiveness and economic growth.”

The report said the department would expedite patent applications that deal with climate change.

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