Members of the Roosevelt Institute met to discuss the recent surge of hurricanes caused by climate change, and any preventative and emergency measures that can be implemented in response. Energy and Environment co-directors Charles Watkins Harper and Adekunle Balogun led the discussion, and some compelling questions raised at the meeting were as follows: What policy lessons can be learned from Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, which level of government should be primarily responsible for disaster preparedness and recovery
An interesting point, dubbed “Mother knows best” stood out at the meeting, which described Abhinav Suresh’s point that preventative measures are a cheaper and more moral response to hurricane damage than recovery measures. He mentioned that a few billion dollars in preventative investments could save the government hundreds of billions of dollars in damages. This proposal was met with general concurrence, with people adding that the government must be held accountable for its actions in causing and perpetuating climate change, and therefore must look into preventative measures to help people who would be disproportionately affected by these weather patterns. As mentioned at the beginning of the meeting, Congress is working on a bill to provide at least $7 billion in emergency funding; however, the current administration plans to cut FEMA preparedness grants by $667 million. There was a general consensus that something had to be done to sway the government to provide aid to those who needed it.
There was some contention on the timeline and the appropriate method as to how to approach these policy proposals. There were multiple calls for educating and having conversations with government officials on the reality and urgency of climate change, and others argued that the appropriate response was immediate, short-term help. While conversations about climate change were important, immediate help is the difference between life and death. Additionally, with an administration more focused on feelings than facts, discussing climate change would greatly entirely stall the necessary help efforts.
Another popular idea was that of publically incentivizing companies in the private sector to invest in products that would strengthen infrastructure as preventative measures. These incentives included tax breaks to participating companies and marketing benefits. This policy would result in more jobs and more capital, stimulating the economy, safer infrastructure, and popular politicians. Related ideas advocated for partnerships between the public and private sphere.
Ultimately, there was no agreed-upon solution to the problems raised by climate change. Regardless, policy change begins with a conversation, and the one that occurred in Roosevelt tonight raised some important questions and answers.