As another fierce winter storm swept through the Southeast and was set to engulf the nation’s capital later in the week, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs held a hearing Wednesday morning to discuss how to better prepare the nation for extreme weather events.
Officials from the Department of Homeland Security and the Government Accountability Office offered testimony on their departments’ efforts to boost the resilience of critical infrastructure in the face of extreme weather, and discussed the impact climate change is having on cities across the country.
In his opening statement, the committee’s chairman, Sen. Tom Carper (D., Del.), said extreme weather has become the “new norm,” adding: “Events like Superstorm Sandy, recent wildfires, dangerous tornadoes, and historic droughts may well be just the tip of the iceberg of what’s to come.”
He said the hearing—which was scheduled prior to forecasts for Thursday’s storm—was not intended to “hash out climate science,” but rather to find common ground on the cost—both economic and in lives impacted—of not being prepared for extreme weather. He noted that 2012’s Superstorm Sandy cost the economy $75 billion in financial damages.
Other government agencies and scientific groups have also warned that extreme weather may become more frequent, and a Government Accountability Office report found that disaster declarations in fiscal year 2011 reached a record 98, compared with 65 in 2004. Some scientists, including members of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, have linked the uptick in extreme weather events to global warming, citing Superstorm Sandy and a batch of heat waves in the Northeast as examples.