Two years after Hurricane Katrina much has become clear. We know that the devastation in New Orleans and surrounding areas was less a natural than a man-made disaster. Katrina's surge into New Orleans was the direct result of poorly constructed levees, an ill-conceived navigation channel, and the destruction of millions of acres of coastal wetlands. Furthermore, the storm's intensity itself was fueled by unusually warm waters in the tropical Atlantic due, in part, to global warming pollution.
How have Congress and the Administration responded to these lessons of Katrina and addressed the chief causes of its tragic aftermath? A report card is due on the federal government's response to global warming, reforming the Army Corps of Engineers and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and restoring the wetlands along the Gulf Coast that act as a natural buffer to storms.
Download the NWF report card (215 Kb) This is a PDF file. Get PDF help.
Here's a quick recap of the report:
ADDRESSING GLOBAL WARMING
Congress Grade: C
Congress has shown significant improvement since its failing grade last year. Both the House and Senate passed energy bills, each taking first steps toward a new energy future. However, Congress has yet to send the final bill to the President's desk because the energy bills must be conferenced (planned after Labor Day, when Congress reconvenes). Serious committee consideration is only beginning on cap and trade legislation to place mandatory limits on global warming pollution from major emitters. Such legislation is needed to promptly begin reducing global warming pollution by two percent every year – 20 percent per decade – to achieve the pollution reductions scientists say are needed. Congress could pull its C grade up to an A in the next few months by finishing the energy bill, and accelerating work on cap and trade legislation.
Passage of stronger vehicle efficiency standards (Corporate Average Fuel Economy, or CAFE) in the Senate and a Renewable Electricity Standard in the House.
Congress has yet to deliver final global warming and clean energy bills to the President's desk.
Administration Grade: F
Recently, the President acknowledged global warming is real, humans are causing it, and something needs to be done. The Administration will host an international summit on climate change in Washington DC in September. But the Administration continues to oppose comprehensive legislation that would cut U.S. global warming pollution from today's levels. We can't solve global warming without reducing the pollution that causes it. The United States has a responsibility to take action ahead of other countries that have contributed less to the problem, and should pursue the economic opportunities in having American businesses lead the way to solving the problem.
Upcoming events present an opportunity to change course. After more than six years of delay, the Administration needs to be a leader, not an obstacle, on the fight to reduce global warming pollution.
Acknowledging in the 2007 State of the Union the need to "confront the serious challenge of global climate change" and convening an upcoming climate change summit in Washington DC.
Remains opposed to mandatory cuts in pollution from today's levels and clean energy policies such as a federal standard to bolster renewable electricity sources. The Administration has 17 months before the President leaves office to change course.
"Many American coastal communities may face more intense storms as the oceans continue to warm and coastal sea levels rise in the decades ahead. We can and must do better to prevent the worst impacts of global warming and restore wetlands and barrier islands along our shores that serve as buffers against these storms." – Larry Schweiger, president & CEO, National Wildlife Federation
The full report also includes sections on: Reforming the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Fixing FEMA and Restoring the Coast.
You can view and download the full report here: http://www.nwf.org/hurricanes
Learn more about the Science behind Hurricanes: http://www.nwf.org/hurricanes/hurricanescience.cfm /a">