Trump seeks $16 billion to fight flooding tied to climate change

US President Donald Trump, with first lady Melania Trump, and their son, Barron, speaks to reporters before departing to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.
US President Donald Trump, with first lady Melania Trump, and their son, Barron, speaks to reporters before departing to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. PHOTO: NYTIMES

WASHINGTON (BLOOMBERG) - Hidden in the Trump administration's US$44 billion (S$59.3 billion) emergency budget request is a plan to expand an Obama-era effort to make cities and towns resilient to the more frequent storms tied to climate change.

While President Donald Trump has dismissed global warming as a hoax and his administration has moved to end efforts to curtail carbon emissions, the White House budget office is seeking US$12 billion for a competition for flood-prone communities that scientists say are facing more numerous storms and greater flooding because of climate change.

"Given the Trump administration's position of climate change, and its apparent rejection of the basic science behind it, it's surprising to see a US$12 billion (S$16 billion) proposal for creating greater resilience," Joel Scata, an attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The New York-based environmental group has fought Trump's efforts to reverse climate rules, but praised this idea.

As part of the US$44 billion emergency budget request for the recovery from Hurricanes Irma, Harvey and Maria, which was sent to Congress Nov 17, the White House said it wants to direct US$12 billion to a competition to help cities and towns become resilient to flooding.

Among the policies the White House said it's considering are "large-scale buyouts in areas of high flood risk."

Other activities could include "structure hardening, forward-looking land-use plans, adoption of disaster resistant building codes," the White House Office of Management and Budget said in a summary of their emergency funding request.

The contest would be run through the Department of Housing and Urban Development, providing community development block grant funds to states and territories that have had more than one major flood disaster in the last four years.

Thirteen states, including Texas, Louisiana and Florida, would meet the criteria for the contest, according to an NRDC analysis.

To be sure, the funding request must be approved by Congress, and lawmakers of both parties have already expressed scepticism of the size and other details in the funding proposal.

The proposal, which is similar to resilience competitions on a smaller scale held by the Obama administration in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, is an idea long championed by groups worried about the risks of climate change.

"It's not a new program but the fact they are putting a new amount of money behind it is great and essentially gives life back to the programme," said Laura Lightbody, director for the Flood-Prepared Communities project at the Pew Charitable Trusts in Washington. It's "a good step in the right direction."