Thank you, Rob, for that introduction.
Hello everyone. I’m so pleased to be here at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to engage with you all about how the Department of Commerce is leveraging its resources to build a more resilient economy.
At the Department of Commerce, our responsibilities span a wide range of issues, and one that I and many of our dedicated staff members are deeply involved in is watching, predicting, and researching our weather and oceans – predicting the next heatwave, monitoring our marine fisheries, and contributing to a vibrant blue economy.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s climate work and emphasis on weather’s intersection with the American economy puts it at the tip of the spear for us at the Department of Commerce. The critical environmental intelligence that NOAA, including the National Weather Service, allows communities, businesses, and other institutions to make informed decisions, especially as we continue to experience the effects of climate change. And one thing we all know firsthand, especially recently, is how extreme weather events can disrupt our lives and our livelihoods.
Just two weeks ago, nearly one-third of this country experienced excessive heat warnings and advisories. Excessive rain and flash flooding have devastated parts of the Northeast. Canadian wildfire smoke continues to affect the air quality of communities here in D.C. and across the country.
What our science is showing is a worsening of certain types of extreme weather events, such as extreme heat, and torrential rains. This has an outsized impact on the economy and on communities everywhere.
Phoenix, Arizona has gone over 3 weeks with daily high temperatures above 110 degrees Fahrenheit. While five to nine inches of rain fell in two days in Vermont causing devastating flash flooding.
These recent events have informed the nature of our work; however, knowledge can only be a powerful tool when we translate it into action. We must take the critical data and information that NOAA provides and use it in the creation and implementation of climate resilience measures that not only safeguard the American people, but shore up the American economy.
Commerce, through NOAA, is responsible for not only weather and climate forecasts, but the data that goes into those forecasts, as well as the observations that verify them and the scientists that communicate them.
Through the first half of 2023, there have been 12 separate billion-dollar weather and climate disasters in the U.S., the second highest amount through the first six months of the year since we began keeping records back in 1980. Just last year, we saw 18 separate events totaling almost $177 billion in damage. The last three years have observed disasters totaling $60 billion, costing over $450 billion in damage and 1,460 deaths.
That is to say nothing of the burden extreme weather puts on our supply chains. If shipments are delayed due to a hurricane, or if rails break due to extreme heat, or flights grounded due to unsafe weather conditions, our economy suffers.
Climate change’s effects on extreme weather, combined with more Americans and vital infrastructure living in harm’s way, necessitates our incorporation of climate resilience strategies into planning at every level.
As Deputy Secretary of Commerce, I know how integral planning for weather and climate is for businesses and our economy. Luckily, we have the data that can help us make the important decisions necessary to build resilience, like climate observations, weather and climate forecasts, climate projections, socioeconomic data.
We know that simply providing data isn’t the whole picture. That’s why NOAA has been a leader in designing user-friendly interactive tools like:
The Climate Mapping for Resilience and Adaptation tool, a first-of-its-kind hub of integrated information – including future climate projections as well as non-climate data, such as new building code and social vulnerability information – to help communities, federal agencies, and other levels of government better understand their exposure to climate hazards and strengthen their resilience plans.
Heat.gov, the premier source for Americans to find important information regarding hot weather. The site also features resources on combatting heat from across the government; heat forecast information; heat planning and preparation guides for public health healthcare providers, decision-makers, and local, state, territorial, and tribal governments; and information for at-risk and disproportionately impacted populations.
Drought.gov, the federal government’s authoritative drought information website, and a one-stop shop for data, decision-support products, resources, and information on drought—from drought monitoring and prediction, to planning and preparedness, to applied research.
These tools provide millions of people and businesses with the information and the context they need to make the most informed decision possible to protect themselves, their loved ones, and their businesses.
In addition to the wealth of data and information, the Commerce Department is also making meaningful investments in climate resilience.
President Biden’s Investing in America agenda extends across the Department’s work. At NOAA, it ranges from investing in new Hurricane Hunter aircraft that are essential in monitoring devastating storms, to the historic investment through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to strengthen our climate resilience.
Through the passage of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act, we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to make critical investments in climate resilience. As we work to decrease our emissions, we’re also focusing on mitigating the social and economic impacts of climate change that we know are coming.
Combined, the BIL and IRA provide over $6 billion for NOAA to take action over the next several years on habitat restoration, coastal resilience, and enhancing our weather forecasting capabilities. Through these funds, NOAA is better able to address climate risks like floods, fire, drought, and extreme heat while also helping communities and our economy become more resilient in the face of the climate crisis.
We have grouped that funding into three priority initiatives:
- Climate Ready Coasts aims to help coastal areas by investing in high-impact natural infrastructure projects that build resilience, create jobs, store carbon, and restore habitat. These efforts will also address marine debris, one of the most pervasive threats to the health of our ocean and waterways.
- Climate Data and Services will support a whole-of-government effort to address the climate crisis by getting critical information in the hands of decision-makers and communities particularly to address floods, wildfire, drought, and ocean health.
- Fisheries and Protected Resources investments will advance complementary efforts to support sustainable fisheries, environmental stewardship and promote community economic development, including generating 30 gigawatts of offshore wind energy by 2030.
Besides NOAA, the Economic Development Administration, another bureau within the Department of Commerce, also has a significant role to play in our journey toward increased climate resilience.
EDA supports communities as they plan and execute projects to ensure economic resilience and long-term recovery, especially after an economic shock like a natural disaster. EDA’s assistance after natural disasters not only helps communities recover from disasters, but also focuses on mitigating future risks.
Since the early 1990s, EDA has received a cumulative total of $3.2 billion in supplemental appropriations to support disaster recovery and resilience, with over 50 percent of these funds – approximately $1.7 billion – appropriated between FY18 and FY23.
In September of 2022, EDA and FEMA jointly released the Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy and Hazard Mitigation Plan Alignment Guide. State, local, and federal officials can use the guide when preparing or reviewing FEMA Hazard Mitigation Plans and EDA Comprehensive Economic Development Strategies to align these two documents for state and regional strategic planning purposes.
The alignment of hazard mitigation and CEDS strategic plans is intended to support resilient communities and economies by incentivizing investments that support resilient housing and neighborhoods, community infrastructure, and private sector businesses.
EDA also provides funding to communities to help devise and implement long-term economic recovery strategies for disaster-impacted communities.
Through its recently appropriated $500 million supplemental funding to the Economic Adjustment Assistance program, EDA is allocating funding specifically for communities that received a presidential disaster declaration in 2021 or 2022, including for hurricanes Ian and Fiona, wildfires, and extreme flooding. These projects, both construction and non-construction, will help support the recovery of communities that have faced these disasters while also supporting the resiliency of these communities into the future.
From medical devices to emergency vehicles, strikes, and natural disasters, the Department of Commerce has taken decisive action to address supply chain impacts, including by providing U.S. producers with information to understand their vulnerabilities and connecting them with those who can help source what they need to compete, even in times of crisis.
We are also investing in substantial new capabilities and resiliency strategies. Commerce’s International Trade Administration secured an initial $10.8 million investment to launch a first-of-its-kind dedicated supply chain resiliency team that will pilot proactive, strategic analyses of critical supply chains. We are positioning ourselves to proactively identify and reduce points of vulnerability, including where our supply chains run through countries that don’t share our values.
Even with this, there is still clear need for a more permanent Commerce program, which is why the Department continues to prioritize its supply chain resilience proposal in our pursuit to secure more funding. We aim to anticipate and mitigate future challenges, helping ensure that the United States maintains secure and reliable access to the goods and materials we need.
Our vision for the success of this work depends greatly on close partnership with industry. We want to gather the thoughts and ideas you all possess, as industry leaders who are helping us make historic improvements to our supply chains.
Resilience isn’t just a policy term we throw around. At the Department of Commerce, it is ingrained into the work we do – work that hopefully helps all communities and businesses make the best and most informed decisions possible.
A resilient economic future hinges on how we respond to what research tells us today. Luckily for us, our bureaus, like NOAA, EDA, and ITA, are leading the charge on gathering valuable data, using that data to make decisions on how our journey toward resilience will move forward, and implementing solutions to make our economy stronger and more resilient than ever before. Thank you.