Wildfires continue to rage in California, Oregon and other western states as residents evacuate, while cities like San Francisco face eerie smoke cover and poor air quality.
Kathleen Bergin, professor of law at Cornell Law School, is an expert in disaster and constitutional law whose work in mass evacuation shelters after Hurricane Katrina is used as a blueprint for protecting survivors of natural disaster. She says the cost of climate change is coming due as California and other states tap into disaster recovery ecosystems.
“The cost of failing to address the root causes of climate change are coming due. FEMA alone has already spent over $2 billion helping California recover from the 2017-18 wildfire season, and that’s not counting money coming from HUD, the SBA, the USDA and other federal and state programs.
“There’s a whole ecosystem of entities involved in disaster recovery that we don’t always think of, but that homeowners, farmers, and small-businesses rely on when they’re displaced or can no longer operate. This year’s fire season is already blowing past prior records, promising to increase the cost of recovery in both the short and long term.
“But while post-disaster spending is necessary to address housing shortages and environmental clean-up, we’d be better off focusing on mitigation, investing in green jobs, and curbing carbon emissions to reduce the force, frequency and fall-out of future disasters.”