How FEMA is Threatening Climate Change Deniers

March 24th 2015

Laura Donovan

Governors skeptical of man-made climate change are in for a rude awakening. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is going to start denying disaster-preparedness funds to governors who don't have plans in place for climate change, according to Inside Climate News. The limitations don't extend to disaster relief, but they do apply to funds that help states with projects aimed to mitigate future disasters.

"If a state has a climate denier governor that doesn't want to accept a plan, that would risk mitigation work not getting done because of politics," Becky Hammer, a lawyer with the Natural Resources Defense Council's water program, told Inside Climate News. "The governor would be increasing the risk to citizens in that state [thanks to his views]."

Since 2010, FEMA has provided around $1 billion per year to states making efforts to lower the impact of disasters, so a governor who denies climate change exists or that it's caused by humans could be missing out on millions in funding from FEMA in states that simply haven't done anything to address climate change.

"This could potentially become a major conflict for several Republican governors," Barry Rabe, an expert on the politics of climate change at the University of Michigan, told Inside Climate News. "We aren't just talking about coastal states."

Last fall, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal argued that Democrats use climate change to enforce more government control, telling conservative think The Heritage Foundation, "For some of the Left, it’s a way for them to come in and make changes to our economy that they would otherwise want to make. It’s an excuse for the government to come in and try to tell us what kind of homes we live in, what kind of cars we drive, what kind of lifestyles we can enjoy. It’s an excuse for some who never liked free-market economies, who never liked rapid economic growth." This sparked confusion as Jindal had said mere hours before that humans have an impact on climate change.

The Florida Center for Investigative Reporting (FCIR) also recently uncovered a policy in the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) that banned the terms "climate change" and "global warming" after Governor Rick Scott entered office four years ago and appointed Herschel Vinyard Jr. as DEP director. Though the DEP's press secretary told the FCIR that it "does not have a policy on this," former DEP worker Kristina Trotta went on the record to say words like "climate change" and "global warming" were unwelcome in that environment. The governor's spokesperson added that there's no policy on this, but at present, Scott seems adverse to taking a firm stance on the matter, even when surrounded by scientists who can speak to the problems climate change has brought to the environment. In 2011, however, Scott said, "I've not been convinced that there's any man-made climate change... Nothing's convinced me that there is."

Late last year, scientist Bill Nye laid out the dangers of anti-climate change rhetoric during an MSNBC interview, "It looks like the United States' strength is its weakness. So people came here from all over the world for freedom to think and act the way they want ... There's no police for that sort of thing, you're allowed to believe whatever you want. It's great. But ...[the] consequence of that was you could also ignore facts of science for a while and now it's coming to a head ... If you had somebody who really strongly believed the earth was flat, you wouldn't have to have that person on a television show with the people who believe the earth is round."