Obama’s Climate Initiatives in the Northwest

A 3-D map of the Olympic National Forest.Credit Martin D. Adamiker / Wikimedia
A 3-D map of the Olympic National Forest.
Credit Martin D. Adamiker / Wikimedia


By: Courtney Flatt, Northwest Public Radio


President Obama Wednesday announced several initiatives to help prepare for a warming climate. He said wildfires, heat waves and rising sea levels brought on by climate change threaten public safety.

One of the main problems that the initiatives will address in the Northwest is the risk people face from floods and landslides.

Climate scientists say warmer winter storms will lead to more frequent and prolonged periods of rainfall. And that could trigger more landslides like the Oso disaster that killed 47 people last march in Washington’s north Cascades. But detailed 3-D maps can help predict where disasters like the Oso landslide could happen.

Check out our earlier coverage of landslide risks to homeowners and how changing rainfall could lead to more landslides.

Obama’s climate initiative will give $13 million dollars to the U.S. Geological Survey to help map more areas, which is not much money for this expensive technology. But Tom Carlson, a geographer with the USGS, says every little bit helps.

He says only about one-fourth of Washington has been mapped by this technology.

“It’s very patchy. There are lots of doughnut holes out there, lots of blank spots,” Carlson says.

About one-third of Oregon and very few parts of Idaho have been mapped.

Also in the president’s initiative:

  • Tribes will get $10 million to help mitigate and plan for climate change. Tribes will be awarded grants to start planning how to adapt and monitor changes and vulnerabilities. They’ll also get money to help gather and share more data about the effects of climate change.

“Impacts of climate change are increasingly evident for American Indian and Alaska Native communities and, in some cases, threaten the ability of tribal nations to carry on their cultural traditions and beliefs,” said Bureau of Indian Affair’s assistant secretary Kevin Washburn in a statement.

Read about some of the challenges tribes face dealing with climate change:

Obama’s initiative will also help communities build more green stormwater infrastructure, like rain gardens and urban forests, something Northwesterners know about.

EarthFix backgrounders on green infrastructure in the Northwest:

The initiative will also provide funding for coastal communities to deal with rising sea levels. One way to do that, Obama says, is to build stronger sea walls. Seattle officials say parts of the city will be underwater by 2050.

Along with the president’s initiatives, the Centers for Disease Control released a guide for local health departments that outlines the threats climate change poses to human health.

For more on how climate change will affect people’s health, check out EarthFix’s Symptoms of Climate Change series. We explored urban heat islands, increases in wildfire smoke, toxic algal blooms, and farmworkers in a warming climate.

Floods Hit 50 Navajo Nation Chapters Across Arizona, New Mexico and Utah this Week

Source: Native News Network

WINDOW ROCK, ARIZONA – Since Monday, nearly 50 chapters have called for assistance in Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. Chinle was hardest hit by the floods as 22 people had to be evacuated from their homes. The floods continued downstream to Many Farms and Rock Point where another 40 people were either evacuated or rescued. In Tonalea, Arizona, officials reported that 20 homes were damaged due to flooding.

Navajo Nation floods

Most of the flash flooding happens after short bursts of intense rain.


“I want our people to know we are working with several different agencies to ensure that our people are safe and their basic needs are met,”

Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly said, In an attempt to calm concerns.

“Though we are thankful for the rain we have received, I want our people to know that the Navajo Nation programs and departments are responding to calls regarding flash flooding. Please be careful and don’t drive or cross flooded roadways. We want everyone to make through the rains safely,”

President Shelly said.

President Shelly has been getting regular updates about flooded communities throughout the week.

“We need everyone to exercise caution and be alert to their surroundings. Though it might not be raining in your area, it can be raining in areas upstream,”

said Navajo Department of Emergency Management Director Rose Whitehair.

Whitehair added that it is difficult to predict what areas would experience flash flooding since most of the flooding happens after short bursts of intense rain.

“And with the long term drought, the ground is hard so there is nowhere for the water to go,”

Whitehair said.

County and state emergency departments have all been coordinating efforts with the Navajo Department of Emergency Management along with the Red Cross, the Hopi Tribe and the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

“I want to thank all the first responders and agencies for working together. I know you are all working hard but remember the work you are doing is for the good of all the people in need. We are a strong nation and we will endure through these difficult times,”

President Shelly said.

Since July nearly 60 chapters have reported to the Navajo Department of Emergency seeking assistance for damages occurred as a result of flooding. Issues have been from road washouts, road closures, rescue operations, shelter for flood victims and road clearing.

President Shelly signed a declaration of emergency in August regarding the flooding and plans are to update the declaration for recent flood events.

Navajo Department of Emergency Management and chapters are working according to a declaration of emergency that President Shelly signed in August.

For those unfamiliar with the Navajo Nation, a chapter is a unit of local government most similar to townships found in most midwestern and northeastern states of the US and Canadian provinces.