Obama proposes $1 billion to prepare for climate change


An irrigation pump sits idle on farmland outside of Firebaugh, Calif., on Feb. 11. Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency following the state’s driest year on record. (Ken James/Bloomberg)

FRESNO, Calif. — President Obama said here Friday that he will propose a $1 billion fund in his fiscal 2015 budget to help communities prepare for the effects of climate change and to fund research and technology to protect against its impact.

The president announced the “climate resilience fund” during a meeting with farmers and ranchers in Fresno, Calif., who have been severely affected by a drought in the state’s San Joaquin Valley.

As of Tuesday, 91.6 percent of the state was experiencing severe or exceptional drought.

Obama is expected to release his proposed 2015 budget in early March. The prospects for the climate fund are uncertain in a Republican-controlled House. But Obama, who made preparation for climate change one of the major themes of the climate action plan he released in June, will continue to press for the need to adapt, according to the White House.

Obama also announced a series of near-term measures to help Western farmers and ranchers recover from the drought, which is now in its third year.

They include $100 million in livestock disaster assistance for California feed producers, $60 million for food banks to help California families affected by the water shortage and $15 million in conservation assistance for Texas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Colorado and New Mexico, as well as California.

Cities across the country are formulating and, in some cases, enacting their own plans to protect against rising water, increased temperatures and more frequent severe weather.

New York City, for example, last year announced a $19.5 billion plan to protect its 520 miles of shoreline against rising sea waters, and the Gulf Coast of Louisiana released a $50 billion plan in 2012.

Obama would spend the $1 billion to “better understand the projected impacts of climate change,” encourage local action to reduce future risk, and fund technology and infrastructure that will be more resilient to climate change, according to briefing documents released by the White House.

Paul Bledsoe, senior fellow on energy and society at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, said that Democrats and Republicans in Congress “don’t have to agree” on whether the combustion of fossil fuels is causing climate change. “

We just need to agree we have a problem that must be dealt with,” said Bledsoe, who was an Interior Department official under President Bill Clinton.

Bernstein reported from Washington.

Zachary A. Goldfarb is a staff writer covering the White House, focusing on President Obama’s economic, financial and fiscal policy.
Lenny Bernstein writes the To Your Health blog. He started as an editor on the Post’s National Desk in 2000 and has worked in Metro and Sports.
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