Washington Weekly: October 13, 2021

Washington Weekly: October 13, 2021

The Past Week in D.C.

Last Friday, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm visited the battleground state of Georgia, along with Georgia Senator Jon Ossoff, to discuss clean energy and tout President Biden’s climate plans.

Also on Friday, President Biden announced that he would restore environmental protections to three national monuments — Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante in Utah, and Northeast Canyons and Seamounts off the New England coast — that had been removed by President Trump.

A new study published on Monday in the journal Natural Climate Change reveals that 85% of the world’s population has been impacted by human-induced climate change.

Ahead of the pivotal United Nations November climate talks in Glasgow, Scotland, the International Energy Agency released the 2021 World Energy Outlook, a new report laying out how the world has begun the massive shift to decarbonization but concluding that the speed of the transition is not fast enough to avoid dangerous global warming.

Months ago, President Biden asked the head’s of all major federal agencies to identify the top climate threats they face, and how they plan to handle them. The results were released last Thursday.

Michigan LCV Analysis: What does this mean for Michigan?

Anyone who spent time in Michigan this past summer knows that climate change is leading to more dangerous flooding — a trend that is happening all across the county.

In fact, a new report released on Monday by the First Street Foundation found that 25% of all critical infrastructure in the U.S. is at risk due to flooding. The report, entitled “Infrastructure on the Brink,” concludes that police and fire stations, airports, and wastewater treatment facilities, as well as 2 million miles of road (or 23% of all roadways in the U.S.), are at substantial risk of damage from flooding — a phenomenon that is only expected to get worse in the coming years and decades as the climate crisis worsens.

In addition to national figures, the report breaks down flooding risk by state, assessing cities and counties with the highest proportion of “operational risk” — identified as flooded to the point that a building or roadway can no longer operate and/or is unsafe — across 5 categories: residential buildings, commercial buildings, roads, social buildings (such as government buildings, schools, museums, etc.), and critical infrastructure (utilities, emergency services, and the like).

While at-risk counties exist all over Michigan, including Lake, Oceana, Benzie, and Grand Traverse Counties in the west/northwest part of the state, a majority of the potential damage lies in vulnerable communities in southeast Michigan, especially Wayne, Macomb, and Monroe Counties. This is especially true when looking at the increased proportion of risk over the next 30 years, where Monroe County poses the greatest flood risk to residential property owners, Macomb County the greatest risk to roads and commuters (including 69 miles of roads that will become impassable over the next 30 years), and Wayne County the greatest risk to commercial buildings.

The growing threat of significant flood damage in these communities is consistent with the devastating flooding we saw this past summer in many underserved areas made up primarily of residents of color.

One such resident is Adonis Flores, an immigrant rights activist from Southwest Detroit who is the feature of our latest “Build Back Better for Us” video. His story reminds us that building back better means prioritizing investments in communities that have been harmed by structural racism, pollution, and failing infrastructure.

Thankfully, some help is on the way, as the 2022 state budget announced by Governor Whitmer last week includes over $300 million for infrastructure improvements, and funding to prepare communities for the inevitable impacts of climate change. Still, with ever increasing climate threats — that have a disproportionate impact on underserved communities — much more federal investment is needed.

President Biden emphasized his commitment to infrastructure investments in Michigan during his trip to Howell last week. We can only hope that when Congress returns from recess they will come together to pass the two pieces of legislation that President Biden has framed as the best chance to save our planet.

In the meantime, Michigan LCV is working to connect these issues at all levels and build support for the Build Back Better Act through mobilization of grassroots voices and grasstops partners to weigh in directly with our congressional delegation. If you would like to join this effort, contact Bentley Johnson at [email protected] and he can get you plugged in.

A Deeper Dive

This week, the New York Times award-winning daily podcast, The Daily, sat down with climate expert Christopher Flavelle to discuss a very difficult climate question that federal, state, and local governments will be forced to face in the coming years and decades: which towns, businesses, and homes are worth saving? You can listen to the episode here.

Use this link to learn how at risk your home or business is to flood damage, and how that risk will change over time.

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