President Barack Obama [official website] on Friday established by Executive Order [text] a Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience. The task force, with members including state, local and tribal officials and executive agencies, is to advise the federal government [White House fact sheet] on how to respond to the impacts of climate change. The order states:
"The impacts of climate change—including an increase in prolonged periods of excessively high temperatures, more heavy downpours, an increase in wildfires, more severe droughts, permafrost thawing, ocean acidification, and sea-level rise—are already affecting communities, natural resources, ecosystems, economies, and public health across the Nation...Managing these risks requires deliberate preparation, close cooperation, and coordinated planning by the Federal Government, as well as by stakeholders, to facilitate Federal, State, local, tribal, private-sector, and nonprofit-sector efforts to improve climate preparedness and resilience; help safeguard our economy, infrastructure, environment, and natural resources; and provide for the continuity of executive department and agency (agency) operations, services, and programs."The order further requires agencies to meet within nine months and create a plan and timeline to adapt policies to protect watersheds and natural resources. The task force will also make recommendations [AP report] regarding how roads, bridges, flood control and other projects can be made more resilient to the effects of climate change.
Greenhouse gas emissions and global warming [JURIST news archive] are controversial topics in the US. JURIST Guest Columnists Joseph Otis Minott and Jay Duffy argue that the much-advocated transition from coal to natural gas, particularly that obtained through hydraulic fracturing [JURIST backgrounder], may not deliver promised climate benefits [JURIST op-ed]. In 2011, a federal judge ruled that the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) is not obligated to reduce green house gas emissions [JURIST report] in order to protect polar bears. Also that year, the Virginia Supreme Court ruled that the effects of global warming are not covered [JURIST report] by a standard liability insurance policy. The US Supreme Court in 2011 ruled [JURIST report] in American Electric Power Co. v. Connecticut [Cornell LII backgrounder] that the Environmental Protection Agency and the Clean Air Act [text] displace claims made under the federal common law of nuisance regarding whether electric utilities contributed to global warming. All eight justices agreed in rejecting the claims by eight states, New York City and three private land trusts invoking the federal common law for public nuisance against four power companies and the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) [official website].