When President Obama signed Executive Order 13653 about a year ago, he relabeled the great debate that was known first as global warming and then climate change to “resiliency.” He set up an Interagency Council on Climate Preparedness and Resilience with three co-chairs and representatives from at least 30 listed departments, plus appointees. He also created the Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience, which will be made up of more than 2 dozen representatives across the nation including Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell.
The task force “will provide recommendations to the President on removing barriers to resilient investments, modernizing federal grant and loan programs to better support local efforts and developing information and tools they need to prepare” according to the White House. So it looks like there will be a carrot-and-stick of government funding for local government units.
The task force has already met with President Obama twice, in December and January, to begin working on its recommendations. It is on a tight clock as Obama has asked to get responses within a year to begin working towards implementation. And according to Mayor Heartwell Obama is willing to do whatever it takes to get the recommendations put into motion, “The President made it very clear to us that he expects that what he’s going to get done over the next 3 years will largely be done through executive order”.
The West Michigan Environmental Action Council (WMEAC) along with the Grand Rapids city government’s Office of Energy and Sustainability published the Grand Rapids Climate Resiliency Report in 2013, which contains many suggestions which would be in line with the resiliency initiative. For a 129-page report that has been developed over the past year, and of such a magnitude to be influencing future city planning choices, it is reveals few specifics about the potential price tag of all this.
But the final price tag will no doubt be handed on down to taxpayers. Will the national government which is over $17 trillion in debt, finance all of these resiliency projects? Will there be a new income tax, state or local, government issued bonds, or federal grants to “fund” the projects?
Grand Rapids city officials have pushed several new tax increases in recent years. In May 2010, voters approved an income tax increase of 15.4 percent, effectively raising the income tax on both residents and non-resident income. This income tax increase was extended for another 15 years in May by 2/3 vote, but only 13.7 percent voter turnout. Another recent tax increase came from the voter approved 0.98-mill property tax increase, which is aimed at the generation of $30 million for public park management.
The Obama Administration places a great deal of urgency behind its resiliency plan, telling us that 97 percent of the scientific community agrees that climate change is man-made and dangerous, but is that really true?
A cursory review turns up many articles that make counter claims to the so-called 97 percent and with some further digging you can turn up articles here, here and here. What kind of consensus is that? This kind of disagreement draws us back to the Cornwall Declaration on Environmental Stewardship, which reminds us while it is important to take environmental concerns seriously, we must also be wary of exaggerated claims. The difference between the real and alleged concerns should be considered before spending an untold amount.
It seems that every time a newly proposed name and agenda start to lose steam (global warming, climate change) then the name is simply changed, and the goals shifted enough to convince the casual observer that this is a new policy. Many others are beginning to catch on to the shifting name game being played in the environmental policy area indicated here and here. Before we jump head on into this new climate resiliency policy, maybe we should ask some hard questions about the policy goals and especially how they will be financed and implemented in Grand Rapids and nationwide.