The impacts of extreme climate events like wildfires, droughts, and heat waves, as well as longer-term hazards like rising sea levels, are increasing at a staggering rate. In 2023, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) found that the U.S. experienced 28 weather and climate disasters that each caused more than $1 billion in damage (the highest number on record). If policymakers are serious about curbing this alarming trend, they must prioritize effective adaptation and resilience planning to prevent damage to properties and businesses and save lives. 

Investing in adaptation and resiliency programs is also a smart financial investment. A study by the National Institute of Building Sciences found that every federal grant dollar spent on hazard mitigation yields $6 in benefits. For example, a wind mitigation program in Broward County, Florida invested $2 million to strengthen windows, vents, and doors, resulting in $10 million in aggregate losses avoided during one hurricane. These benefits would increase if faced with additional hurricanes.  

Still,  adaptation and resilience efforts face seemingly insurmountable barriers. As noted in the National Climate Assessment:

Adaptation is routinely limited by a range of political, structural, psychological, and normative barriers…Existing environmental and disaster policies, frameworks, and governance systems are ill-suited to handle the long-term, widespread, transformative changes needed to adapt to climate change; tend to be reactive rather than proactive; and assume fixed rather than dynamic environments.

Enacting legislation to coordinate federal adaptation efforts is vital to overcoming some of these barriers and enabling communities to limit climate impacts.

Two recently introduced pieces of bipartisan legislation would, if enacted, enable the federal government to boost the nation’s resilience to climate disasters through increased planning and coordination.

The National Coordination on Adaptation and Resilience for Security Act of 2023 (NCARS Act) is a bipartisan, bicameral bill that seeks to create a comprehensive and coordinated approach to climate adaptation. Led by Reps. María Salazar (R-FL) and Scott Peters (D-CA) and Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Chris Coons (D-Del.), the bill calls for the creation of a National Adaptation and Resilience Strategy and an Implementation Plan. Under the bill, a Chief Resilience Officer position at the White House would be established to spearhead the effort. 

In addition, a Partners Council on Adaptation and Resilience–with membership drawn from state, local, and tribal governments, NGOs, academic institutions, and the private sector–would be created. The Council would offer recommendations to improve federal adaptation operations, such as identifying how the federal government can best provide resources and policies to help communities adapt and build resilience. The bill includes accessible information for local governments to use in adaptation planning by establishing a federal information clearinghouse of federal adaptation and resilience data. 

Similarly, the Preparedness and Risk Management for Extreme Weather Patterns Assuring Resilience and Effectiveness (PREPARE Act) garnered bipartisan support when it was introduced in the House by Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-PA). The bill creates an interagency council that would guide the implementation of extreme weather resilience, preparedness, and risk identification initiatives and requires agencies to incorporate extreme weather events into their planning. The bill supports regional planning efforts and provides resources for adaptation planning to Tribal, state, and local governments.

The Biden administration’s National Climate Resilience Framework, published in September 2023, is an example of an adaptation plan that would coordinate activities across the federal government and provide resources to communities. The framework also provides recommendations to increase the resiliency of buildings and infrastructure and mobilize “capital, investment, and innovation to advance climate resilience at scale.” In contrast to legislation that establishes durable policies, the long-term effects of this framework depend upon future Administrations continuing to build upon it. 

With damages from climate impacts continuing to grow, we must advance policies to make communities more resilient. Policymakers should enact bipartisan legislation like NCARS and PREPARE and implement provisions in Biden’s resilience framework to enable efficient, cost-effective pathways to protect the country as it inevitably faces ever-increasing extreme weather events.