Conservative states seek billions to brace for disaster. (Just don’t call it climate change.)

click to enlarge In a photo provided by NASA, Hurricane Florence approaches the east coast of the U.S., Sept. 10, 2018. - NASA VIA THE NEW YORK TIMES
NASA via the New York Times
In a photo provided by NASA, Hurricane Florence approaches the east coast of the U.S., Sept. 10, 2018.
By Christopher Flavelle
The New York Times Company

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration is about to distribute billions of dollars to coastal states mainly in the South to help steel them against natural disasters worsened by climate change.

But states that qualify must first explain why they need the money. That has triggered linguistic acrobatics as some conservative states submit lengthy, detailed proposals on how they will use the money, while mostly not mentioning climate change.

A 306-page draft proposal from Texas doesn’t use the terms “climate change” or “global warming,” nor does South Carolina’s proposal. Instead, Texas refers to “changing coastal conditions” and South Carolina talks about the “destabilizing effects and unpredictability” of being hit by three major storms in four years.


Louisiana does include the phrase “climate change” in its proposal in one place, an appendix on the final page.

The federal funding program, devised after the devastating hurricanes and wildfires of 2017, reflects the complicated politics of global warming in the United States. While officials from both political parties are increasingly forced to confront the effects of climate change, including worsening floods, more powerful storms and greater economic damage, many remain reluctant to talk about the cause.

The $16 billion program, overseen by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, is the first time such funds have been used to prepare for disasters like these that haven’t yet happened, rather than responding to or repairing damage that has already occurred.

The money is distributed according to a formula benefiting states most affected by disasters in 2015, 2016 and 2017. That formula favors Republican-leaning states along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts, which were hit particularly hard during that period.


Texas is in line for more than $4 billion, the most of any state. The next largest sums go to Louisiana ($1.2 billion), Florida ($633 million), North Carolina ($168 million) and South Carolina ($158 million), all of which voted Republican in the 2016 presidential election.

The other states getting funding are West Virginia, Missouri, Georgia and California, the only state getting money that voted Democratic in the presidential race of 2016.

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