Recently, the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) removed the reference to "climate change" from their strategic plan. This is especially troubling considering that FEMA is responsible for coordinating the government's disaster response. Removal of this key terminology promotes an "alternate reality" and a perception that climate change is not responsible for the increase in many of our natural disasters. As architects and design professionals, we recognize that climate change is a real threat. It cannot be ignored and therefore, we must act to make our voice heard on this issue. Please sign this letter on behalf of your firm urging FEMA to retain language related to climate change in their strategic plan.
COTE Letter to FEMA
April 15, 2018
Mr. William “Brock” Long
Federal Emergency Management Administration
500 C St SW
Washington, DC 20024
RE: FEMA’s Removal of 'Climate Change' from FEMA Strategic Plan
Dear Administrator Long:
We, the undersigned, are writing to alert you of our concerns about the recent shift by the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) to remove the reference to ‘climate change’ in the agency’s Strategic Plan. The undersigned architecture firms urge you to retain this language in an effort to continue the progress made with regard to climate change and its impact on weather patterns that impact the built environment and other aspects of the environment.
In addition to FEMA’s removal of the terms ‘climate change’ from its strategic plan (that sets out the agency's priorities for the next four years), FEMA has also neglected to mention terms related to scientific predictions of rising surface temperatures such as climate, global warming, sea-level rise, or weather.
Why it matters to us: FEMA is responsible for coordinating the government's response to natural and manmade disasters and now joins at least two other federal agencies — the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and the Department of Housing and Urban Development — in this move. By deleting key terminologies associated with the primary mission of your agency and the others, it gives the perception that this reality is simply not occurring.
Last year, one of the hottest years in modern history, was also the costliest year ever for weather disasters, setting the U.S. back a record-setting $306 billion in spending aid and relief cost. By adopting this change, it appears that FEMA is ignoring a critical factor that exacerbates natural disasters (and the ensuing damage): climate change.
The plan states: "Disaster costs are expected to continue to increase due to rising natural hazard risk, decaying critical infrastructure, and economic pressures that limit investments in risk resilience. As good stewards of taxpayer dollars, FEMA must ensure that our programs are fiscally sound. Additionally, we will consider new pathways to long-term disaster risk reduction, including increased investments in pre-disaster mitigation."
In comparison, the 2014-2018 FEMA Strategic Plan highlighted the necessity to adapt to future climate-influenced risks by stating:
"Scientific evidence indicates that the climate is changing and significant economic, social, and environmental consequences can be expected as a result. A changing climate is already resulting in quantifiable changes to the risks communities face, showing that future risks are not the same as those faced in the past. State, tribal, territorial, and local demands for climate-enabled risk management information and tools are expected to rise and evolve as the need to adapt to climate change increases. The emergency management community will need to adapt appropriately to these changing risks as they strengthen their risk-management programs."
As practicing architects, we agree that climate change is a very real and immediate threat to further destruction from weather events. We strongly encourage the agency to reconsider the incorporation of the terms “climate change” to properly and adequately embrace the quickly changing needs of citizens across the country and the changing needs for the built environment.
Eliminating accurate data and causation will severely impact our ability to meet client demands, fulfill our contractual obligations, and carry out the duties of our licensure to protect the public. Eliminating words that define a real and present danger to the future health of people on this planet will do nothing to further the Agency’s mission to mitigate the effects of disasters and establish both pre- and post-disaster assistance programs and standards.
[Firms Who Approve Listed Here]