What it is: On Friday, President Barack Obama signed an executive order aimed at making the nation better prepared for climate change. The order creates a task force of state and local officials to advise the administration on how to respond to extreme weather, such Hurricane Sandy, which devastated much of New Jersey one year ago.
What it means: The order could result in federal assistance being directed to those states and local governments that invest in projects like roads, bridges, and other infrastructure that promotes resiliency during extreme weather and other events associated with climate change.
Why it may be important to New Jersey: Perhaps the biggest criticism of the efforts to help the state rebuild and recover from the October superstorm is that they don’t take into account the effects of climate change. Probably, the biggest example is the state’s quick adoption of draft standards for elevating homes and other structures from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which fail to take the impact of global warming into consideration.
How else it could affect the state: The order also requires building codes to be updated to make structures more resilient to extreme storms. Environmental groups have suggested the Christie administration is not doing so, a policy that could jeopardize possible federal funding in future rebuilding and recovery efforts. At the very least, it will heighten the debate in New Jersey over what needs to done to make the state more resilient to climate change.
Why the order was issued: With efforts to combat global warming stalled in Congress, the administration has vowed to take action with executive orders and other executive branch initiatives. The order follows up on a proposal by the federal Environmental Protection Agency earlier this year to curb greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants, a big source of pollution contributing to climate change.
How the order might benefit New Jersey: In line with other recent Obama administration decisions, the order might help encourage new investments in clean energy technologies, such as solar and wind power. Those technologies produce electricity, albeit on an intermittent basis, without producing emissions that contribute to global climate change.
What lies ahead: The task force, comprised mostly of Democrats, is expected to hold its first hearing this winter.