FEMA's Position on Mitigation and Adaptation

Pete Gaynor on Meet the Press.

by Eric Holdeman / September 3, 2019

I think Pete Gaynor dodged a "small bullet" this morning when he appeared on Meet the Press with Chuck Todd.

The "dodge" was made possible by the way in which Chuck asked a question about FEMA and "mitigation vs. adaptation." What he forgot to do (or his staff failed him) was set the question up in the context of climate change. Those two words were never uttered.

Thus, Pete responded with the typical emergency manager response about the value and emphasis on mitigation as a way to reduce or prevent future disasters. There was no mention of adaptation.

To refresh the issue. In climate terms, "mitigation" is about reducing carbon in the atmosphere and what can be done by government, business, and somewhat, by individuals to minimize their carbon footprint. Adaptation is our "typical" disaster mitigation efforts of reacting to the hazard by trying to minimize it and prevent damages — nothing to do with carbon and climate change prevention. 

Likely no one watching who is not clued into the above made note of the missed opportunity on the part of Chuck Todd to make an administration official "dance a climate jig" without throwing the president's anti-climate-change agenda under the bus.  

Way, way back, over 12 years ago — I participated in an outgoing media interview with the George W. Bush FEMA administrators (actually then it was the deputy director). Near the end I tossed out a question, "What is FEMA doing about climate adaptation?" What I heard was a long pause —  and then (I think his name was Jackson) came back on the phone and said "I looked around the room here and that issue has not been an issue addressed by FEMA."

I can confidently say, we are "back to the future" on that issue again. 

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