Obama takes steps to make roads, bridges more resilient to climate change impact


President Obama, shown here speaking on Tuesday, has been talking about the need to invest in U.S. infrastructure all week. (Chip Somodevilla/Pool via European Pressphoto Agency)

Speaking to a group of state, local and tribal leaders in the State Dining Room on Wednesday, President Obama said the federal government will make more data available and provide additional funding to help American communities cope with the impacts of climate change.

Obama -- who created a task force of 26 officials from across the country to address the issue and announced a nearly $1 billion National Disaster Resilience Competition last month -- told task force members at the meeting, "We are here because we know that climate change is an undeniable scientific fact."

Several agencies announced Wednesday they will provide grants to help bolster climate adaptation efforts. The Interior Department said it will provide $10 million to help tribes prepare for the effects of global warming, which include melting sea ice and rising sea levels, while it and other agencies launched a $13.1 million 3-D elevation program to give policymakers more detailed information as they plan for the future. The Agriculture Department announced $236.3 million in awards for eight states to strengthen their rural electric infrastructure.

"And I want you to know that you have a partner in me, you have a partner in this administration," Obama said. "And I’m confident that, working together, we can take some common-sense steps to make sure that America’s infrastructure is safer, stronger and more resilient for future generations."

Kenneth Kimmell, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists, said in an interview that his groups have found state and local officials across the country are already calculating what it will take for them to strengthen their defenses against more intense and frequent storms as well as sea level rise, flooding and other impacts of global warming.

"People are scared," Kimmell said. "They're just starting to put a price tag on how much it costs to adapt, and they're going to need help from Washington."

The attendees included a number of Democrats, including Governors Jay Inslee (Wash.), Pat Quinn (Ill.) and Peter Shumlin (Vt.), as well as a few Republicans, such as Mayor James Brainard of Carmel, Ind.

Juliet Eilperin is a White House correspondent for The Washington Post, covering domestic and foreign policy as well as the culture of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. She is the author of two books—one on sharks, and another on Congress, not to be confused with each other—and has worked for the Post since 1998.
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