Making Our Communities SAFE


The increasing trends of extreme weather we’ve seen over the last couple of years have just been confirmed; last week the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) new report found that the number of extreme events: increasing temperature, drought, rainfall and flooding, are in fact long term trends, so we’d all better get ready! Preparing our communities for these extreme weather events will help to prevent the structural and economic damages that we’ve seen this year.

Senators Whitehouse (RI) and Baucus (MT) took a first step in helping Federal Agencies and States to prepare by introducing Securing America’s Future and Environment (SAFE) Act. The SAFE Act outlines how important healthy natural resources are to communities, and emphasizes the urgent need to help States adapt to a changing climate.

The SAFE Act (S. 1881) is a nonregulatory bill that establishes requirements and identifies specific federal programs where natural resource adaptation would be undertaken. While the natural resources and wildlife we enjoy are threatened by climate change, they face an immediate threat of how humans adapt to a changing climate. If people opt for old engineered solutions like dams and levees, many of our natural environments will be threatened, but choosing alternatives like protecting wetlands and floodplains and fostering water efficiency can help both people and wildlife prepare.

The SAFE Act requires the development of a coordinated national adaptation strategy, while also supporting, individual states to develop their own specific adaptation plans. While helping both Federal Agencies and States adapt, the SAFE Act also helps to reduce long-term costs by determining how to most effectively protect and conserve our country’s natural resources in a changing climate.

Many states, such as Wisconsin, Maryland, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Washington, have already begun to prepare themselves by developing individual adaptation plans. They are steering themselves away from traditional grey infrastructure plans and moving toward more natural solutions, such as natural floodplain management, water efficiency and conservation, green infrastructure, and other low-impact strategies that provide far greater benefits and better protection from a more volatile and uncertain climate.

The severe economic impacts of extreme weather are likely to continue unless we make a change. This year alone, we’ve had more billion-dollar weather events than ever before. We cannot continue to have events of this magnitude impacting our economy. Passing the SAFE Act will only increase the preparedness of Federal Agencies and States, ensuring the protection of our communities, economies and the natural resources we all enjoy.