Home > Uncategorized > Biden Greatly Scaled Back Obama Climate Adaptation Order – And No One Seemed To Notice

Biden Greatly Scaled Back Obama Climate Adaptation Order – And No One Seemed To Notice

Obama Executive Order Created Broad Program, Backed Federal Regulatory Authority

Trump Repealed Obama Order

Biden Restoration Order Actually Gutted The Obama Order

As Biden is about to depart on his Hurricane Ian PR tours (Puerto Rico and Florida), I want to put a little historical and policy meat on the bones of an important story about continuing government failures that were exposed by Hurricane Ian.

I’m sure Joe Biden and the lapdog media are not going to say anything about how privatization of energy and other Neoliberal economic reforms  – including Congress’s passage of the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act – have contributed to the disaster in Puerto Rico.

Of course, this is more of the same of what Rutgers Professor Naomi Klein exposed in the post-Katrina response as “Shock Doctrine – Disaster Capitalism”.

But there are other government policy failures that warrant attention.

Let’s start with Obama’s Executive Order on climate adaptation. He issued that as a followup to his Order on Sandy, which I contrasted at the time with NJ Gov. Christie’s response. (see also:

At the time it was issued, following the Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy disasters, it got little press attention.

But the details of Obama’s Executive Order 13653 “Preparing the United States for the Impacts of Climate Change” actually directed broad and sweeping climate adaptation programs, including the use of federal regulatory authority.

Here’s the core text:

Sec. 3. Managing Lands and Waters for Climate Preparedness and Resilience. Within 9 months of the date of this order and in coordination with the efforts described in section 2 of this order, the heads of the Departments of Defense, the Interior, and Agriculture, the Environmental Protection Agency, NOAA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Army Corps of Engineers, and other agencies as recommended by the Council established in section 6 of this order shall work with the Chair of CEQ and the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to complete an inventory and assessment of proposed and completed changes to their land- and water-related policies, programs, and regulations necessary to make the Nation’s watersheds, natural resources, and ecosystems, and the communities and economies that depend on them, more resilient in the face of a changing climate. Further, recognizing the many benefits the Nation’s natural infrastructure provides, agencies shall, where possible, focus on program and policy adjustments that promote the dual goals of greater climate resilience and carbon sequestration, or other reductions to the sources of climate change. The assessment shall include a timeline and plan for making changes to policies, programs, and regulations. Agencies shall build on efforts already completed or underway as outlined in agencies’ Adaptation Plans, as discussed in section 5 of this order, as well as recent interagency climate adaptation strategies such as the National Action Plan: Priorities for Managing Freshwater Resources in a Changing Climate, released October 28, 2011; the National Fish, Wildlife and Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy, released March 26, 2013; and the National Ocean Policy Implementation Plan, released April 16, 2013.

Of course, the Order was never implemented by the Obama administration. Another example of symbolic gesture over real reform.

The Obama Order was later repealed by President Trump’s Executive Order 13,783 “Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth”.

The news coverage of the Trump Order did not even mention the climate adaptation provisions of the repealed Obama Order.

In Orwellian fashion, not surprisingly, the Biden White House has literally flushed that Trump Order down the Memory Hole:

Screen Shot 2022-10-04 at 11.15.29 AM

All of which takes us now to the Biden Administration’s policy.

Biden issued Executive Order 14,008: Executive Order on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad

Revealingly, the Order does not mention the word “regulation”.

As such, it greatly scales back and weakens the Obama Order.

On top of that, Biden’s “Bipartisan” infrastructure funding law and inflation reduction act included provisions and side deals to scale back federal regulatory authority and promote accelerated expansion of infrastructure, with no climate impact assessments or adaptation planning & mitigation measures at all.

The Biden Executive Order is very thin gruel on the important policy issues involved in adaption –

Here’s the full text on adaptation, which is limited in scope to federal government procurement and management of buildings and property:

Sec. 211.  Climate Action Plans and Data and Information Products to Improve Adaptation and Increase Resilience.  (a)  The head of each agency shall submit a draft action plan to the Task Force and the Federal Chief Sustainability Officer within 120 days of the date of this order that describes steps the agency can take with regard to its facilities and operations to bolster adaptation and increase resilience to the impacts of climate change.  Action plans should, among other things, describe the agency’s climate vulnerabilities and describe the agency’s plan to use the power of procurement to increase the energy and water efficiency of United States Government installations, buildings, and facilities and ensure they are climate-ready.  Agencies shall consider the feasibility of using the purchasing power of the Federal Government to drive innovation, and shall seek to increase the Federal Government’s resilience against supply chain disruptions.  Such disruptions put the Nation’s manufacturing sector at risk, as well as consumer access to critical goods and services.  Agencies shall make their action plans public, and post them on the agency website, to the extent consistent with applicable law.

You can kiss all that pretend regulatory stuff good-bye. Biden is a corporate Neoliberal. He won’t even do symbolic regulatory gestures like Obama.

So, when Biden tours another climate disaster, would it be too much to expect that the national press corps or climate activists to ask some tough questions about Biden’s actual climate record, based on the foregoing?

I’m not holding my breath.

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