Recovery, Resiliency and Readiness—Contending with Natural Disasters in the Wake of Climate Change (Climate Change, Part III)
The Subcommittee will examine federal, state, and local preparations for the 2019 hurricane and wildfire season and assess the status of recoveries from the Southern California wildfires of 2017-2018 and Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria in Houston, Texas, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico.
The hearing will also highlight the fundamental challenges that climate change poses to federal disaster preparedness and recovery, including the link between warmer global temperatures and more intense hurricane and wildfire seasons.
Due to climate change, “the number of hurricanes that reach Categories 4 and 5 in strength has roughly doubled” since the 1970s and “there are no longer distinct wildfire ‘seasons’—there are just wildfires all the time.”
In March 2018, FEMA removed all references to “climate change” from its strategic plans for the next four years.
Nearly two years after Hurricane Maria and Irma, millions of Americans in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are still living in dire conditions. For example, the island of Vieques, where approximately 9,000 Americans reside, had one main hospital that was destroyed by Maria, but the hospital has yet to be rebuilt. Mental health problems have also increased dramatically as suicide crisis hotlines in Puerto Rico “reported a 246 percent increase in suicide attempts from November 2017 through January 2018, compared with the numbers from the same time last year.”
The Governmental Accountability Office’s (GAO) audits related to the 2017 natural disaster season uncovered logistical problems with resource distribution, lack of training of responders in local customs and traditions, and insufficient coordination and information sharing
between federal agencies and non-governmental organizations such as the Red Cross and local community groups.
Mr. Stephen Costello
Chief Recovery Officer, City of Houston
Mr. Christopher Currie
Director, Emergency Management, Disaster Recovery & DHS Management Issues, on behalf of U.S. Government Accountability OFfice
Dr. Judith Curry
President, Climate Forecast Applications Network
Mr. Mark Ghilarducci
Director, California Governor's Office of Emergency Services
Dr. Michael Mann
Distinguished Professor of Meteorology, Director, Earth System Science Center, on behalf of The Pennsylvania State University
Mr. Omar Marrero
Executive Director, Central Office of Recovery and Reconstruction of Puerto Rico
Director, Office of Disaster Recovery, on behalf of Virgin Islands Public Finance Authority
Mr. James Witt
Former Director, Federal Emergency Management Agency