Oct 8, 2021 - Energy & Environment

Federal agencies reveal climate challenges

Illustration of a metal chain with a paperclip as a link.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Federal agencies are out with the first iteration of new climate adaptation and resilience plans under the Biden administration.

Catch up fast: The reports released by the White House Thursday come in response to an executive order issued by President Biden on Jan. 28.

  • Agencies were asked to look at their exposure to climate risks and put together processes to become more resilient to any threats.

Why it matters: Noteworthy details in this initial wave include:

  • The Energy Department has only "completed screenings and assessments" of its climate vulnerabilities at 51% of its sites so far.
  • The agency is responsible for a sprawling footprint of nuclear weapons storage and disposal sites and national laboratories.
  • The department is especially concerned about the impacts of extreme events, such as heat waves and wildfires, on its outdoor workforce and facilities.
  • Work is underway at the Hanford Site in Washington State to create protocols for workers to operate in high heat, along with "the planting of wildfire-tolerant vegetation and fire barriers."

Meanwhile, the Department of Homeland Security sees a bleak near-term future when it comes to extreme weather events, and warns of surges of climate change migrants fleeing disasters.

  • NASA, an agency more closely identified with studying climate change, has an overarching climate adaptation goal of "maintaining access to space."
  • Many launch facilities the agency uses are located along shorelines that are vulnerable to sea level rise, erosion and hurricanes.
  • And the Defense Department sees increased needs for soldiers to be prepared to operate in extreme weather conditions, including the Arctic. It also notes the possibility of future conflicts over water scarcity.
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