Obama Links Extreme Weather, Climate Change During Florida Hurricane Briefing

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By Anthony Adragna

May 28 — President Barack Obama used his annual hurricane briefing and a Twitter conversation May 28 to urge Congress to further support resilience efforts in U.S. communities vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.

Obama, speaking at the National Hurricane Center in Miami, warned climate change is already having impacts on coastal communities and would be extremely costly to address if the U.S. doesn't ramp up preparedness efforts.

“The best climate scientists in the world are telling us that extreme weather events like hurricanes are likely to become more powerful,” Obama said during brief remarks. “When you combine stronger storms with rising seas, that’s a recipe for more devastating floods.”

He added, “Miami, for example, already has to spend hundreds of millions of dollars just to adapt its water system to the more frequent flooding that it’s already experiencing from rising seas.”

The president said leading scientists now believe climate change worsens already extreme weather events and highlighted 2012's Hurricane Sandy, which devastated the New York City area and other parts of the East Coast.

“Climate change didn’t cause Hurricane Sandy, but it might have made it stronger,” Obama said. “And that’s why we are seeking to work with Congress to make sure that we are focused on resilience and the steps we can take to fortify our infrastructure in these communities.”

Obama made the trip to Miami for an in-person briefing on the upcoming hurricane season. His latest visit marks the second time in as many months the president's travels to Florida have focused heavily on climate change.

In late April, Obama warned a changing climate would imperil much of the nation's iconic wilderness like the Florida Everglades.

Should Be Taught in Schools 

Later, during a Twitter chat, Obama expressed support for incorporating lessons on climate change and how to address the problem into public school curriculums around the country.

“Kids instinctively understand importance of environment, impact on animals, health. Weave it into science and social studies,” Obama said in a tweet.

Asked if major international greenhouse gas emitters like China and Brazil are doing enough to address climate change, the president said in a tweet that “we will all need to do more with US leading.”

Obama called a joint November 2014 announcement with China on climate change “big” and said the U.S. would be working with Brazil to develop its emissions-reduction plans.

Defends Remarks on National Security Risk 

The president also defended May 20 remarks that climate change poses an immediate national security risk. Obama said increasingly extreme weather would cause population displacement, resource scarcity and stressed populations that would increase the likelihood of global conflict.

Republicans in Congress took exception to those comments from Obama and said there were numerous other greater risks to national security before climate change.

To contact the reporter on this story: Anthony Adragna in Washington at aadragna@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Pearl at lpearl@bna.com