Climate Defense is national defense; and national defense is national security
A climate defense requires the federal government to repair all the damage that climate catastrophes cause and also as swiftly as possible to reduce the rate of climate deterioration. Both parts are essential. Anything less is inadequate. When climate catastrophes strike, federal and state governments must repair the destruction and harden the civilian infrastructure so that future climate catastrophes do less damage. That defensive effort is called "adaptation" in the language of disaster planners. If reconstruction is not completed promptly, then climate disasters are destroying infrastructure faster than we replace it. In other words, we're losing infrastructure. Adaptation is important and necessary but all by itself it is not a sufficient climate defense. The federal government must also take swift action to reduce the severity and frequency of climate disasters, mainly by reducing emissions of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. That's for next time. This issue of Climate Defenders is about defensive adaptation.
One strain of thought, now regrettably popular in Washington, takes the view that defensive adaptation is the best the federal government can achieve. The malignant climate genii is out of the bottle, so the argument goes, and the best the federal government can do is to minimize the destructiveness of future climate disasters by hardening infrastructure and by repairing the damage that future disasters create.
If that is really all the United States can do, a dubious claim, then the United States is in trouble because the federal government is not repairing climate damage as fast as annual climate catastrophes create it. The explanation is not a mystery. There's insufficient money in the federal budget to do so. Consider these realities. In the first eight months of 2023, climate catastrophes inflicted $56 billion in damages on the territorial United States . For the entire year 2023, the budget of the Federal Emergency Management Agency was $29 billion. That's just 52 percent of what was needed to restore damages just in the first eight months of the year. As a result of the low budget, when a freak storm wiped out the city of Lahaina, HI in August 2023, the Federal Disaster Management Authority ran out of money to repair it. Eight months of climate disasters had wiped out FEMA's 12-month appropriation..
Here's more evidence. The average annual cost of climate disasters in the last 43 years was $61 billion; the average cost (in 2023 dollars) of the last seven years of climate disasters was $143 billion. The average annual cost is rising because disasters are bigger and more frequent. Worse, NOAA data show a 6-fold increase in "average 5-year cost" of climate damage between 2000 and 2020. Projecting a six-fold increase between 2020 and 2040, we can anticipate $870 billion a year in climate damage in 2040. This is approximately the size of this year's defense budget, but in this case it's a measure of what happens when you mount no defense.
If the government does not restore and rebuild after natural disasters, either the damage is not restored or someone else pays. Insurance companies are tired of paying. The insurance companies have been getting bigger and bigger bills because of escalating climate damage inflicted on insured properties. Insurance companies cannot insure buildings against 2023 disasters at the same prices they charged a decade ago or they lose money. Quite apart from inflation, there is more frequent and more severe damage now. So in Texas, California, and Louisiana, insurance companies now flatly decline to insure buildings. Homeowners, you're on your own. Sure, when finally state insurance commissioners approve price increases, as sooner or later they must, the insurance companies will again insure buildings in high-risk states. However, the extra cost of that insurance will fall upon the homeowners and renters. The American public has already begun to pay out-of-pocket for escalating climate disasters.
Climate catastrophes are increasing in frequency and intensity, but Congress has not awakened to the need for additional appropriations to support an adaptive defense. By failing to appropriate all the money needed to repair damages caused by climate catastrophes (storms, floods, wildfires, droughts) the federal government is permitting climate disasters progressively to degrade the civilian infrastructure of the territorial United States on a year after year basis. We are losing roads, bridges, schools, reservoirs, and ports to climate catastrophes. That's an economic catastrophe on top of a climate catastrophe.
Imagine that you are prostrate, and someone is kicking you. Curl up and protect your vital organs. That's what an adaptive climate defense does. Without reducing the severity of the climate-caused disasters, an adaptive defense minimizes the damage that climate catastrophes inflict. The United States is on the ground and climate disasters are kicking harder every year, but we're not protecting our civilian infrastructure. As matters stand, our adaptive defense is inadequate and, as the next issue of Climate Defenders (Oct. 15) will show, unless and until a complete defense is mounted, the federal government cannot prevent the kicks from increasing in frequency and severity. The USA is taking a beating from climate disasters, it's getting worse, and Congress is ignoring the problem. We need to change that.
Suppose that trillions of dollars of infrastructure damage had been inflicted on the territorial United States by a foreign military. Would the federal government fail to respond? Apparently, Congress does not understand that climate defense is national defense, national defense is national security, and national security requires an urgent and complete response. We need to explain it to them.
What You Can Do
Even if you do nothing else, if you subscribe to Climate Defenders (it's free) and share this information with others, you have done something to defend your country against climate disasters.
 That number does not include the results of Hurricane Idalia or the flood in New York City. See: National Centers for Environmental Information. 2023. https://www.ncei.noaa.gov/access/billions/time-series
 Tony Romm, "FEMA delays $2.8 billion in disaster aid to keep from running out of money," Washington Post 27 September 2023. " Much of the stalled federal money was supposed to reimburse the territory for the cost of repairing ports, fixing schools and bolstering infrastructure against future disasters — some dating back to Hurricane Maria, a Category 5 cyclone that unleashed vast devastation six years ago."
Q. What is the difference between a law-abiding gun owner and a criminal?
A. The .2 of a second that it takes to pull a trigger.