Climate Resilience Fund could support Duke initiativesLast week, President Barack Obama announced his plan for a $1 billion Climate Resilience Fund—a departure from recent budget cuts in the environmental sector.
This Climate Resilience Fund is designed to provide "more resilience in the face of changing climate," according to Obama's announcement, and will help communities better prepare for future droughts, heat waves, wildfires, storms and floods. Elizabeth Albright, assistant professor of the practice in environmental sciences and policy at the Nicholas School of the Environment, said the fund may trickle down to more specific areas of the country, such as the University itself.
"The proposed fund could support research of technologies that could enable and enhance our ability to adapt to these extreme events—ideally the Pratt [School of Engineering], Nicholas School, Sanford [School of Public Policy], Fuqua [School of Business] and others could be involved in this cross-cutting, multidisciplinary research," Albright said.
Albright added that the fund could raise student awareness to climate change and issues associated with this, especially given the recent increase in snow storms in North Carolina.
The Resilience Fund could encourage Duke students to reach out to the community and spread awareness about the dangers of climate change—especially in areas of North Carolina that have been subjected to weather damage in the past, Albright added.
"These funds may provide an opportunity for Duke and community collaborations and engagement to increase awareness and capacity to adapt and become more resilient to extreme weather events," she said.
Branching out on a more global scale, Billy Pizer, associate professor of public policy, economics and environment at Sanford, said the fund could particularly affect agriculture and health.
But the prospects of such a controversial bill in a red state are unclear.
"The short answer is that there is virtually no chance of a climate change bill clearing the Republican controlled House," said Norman Christensen, research professor and founding dean at the Nicholas School. "It is truly unfortunate that climate change has become a fiercely partisan issue. As recently as eight years ago, this was not the case."
Some professors noted, however, that the rift between the goals of Obama and the North Carolina House of Representatives does not demean the bill's value.
"Given the current make-up of Congress, I hold little hope for successful comprehensive greenhouse gas reduction bill legislation," Albright said. "That said, the prospects for the Climate Resilience Fund are greater."
Regardless of the fund's unclear future, the amount proposed by Obama—$1 billion—may be insufficient to achieve its lofty goals.
"A billion dollars is really not very much money, given the enormity of this challenge," Christensen said. "You can see that a billion dollars, if it were ever approved by the Congress, would evaporate almost instantaneously."
Christensen added, however, that the bill's longevity may be extended if the money is spent wisely.
"I would be inclined to set priorities based on those communities most vulnerable to climate change—semiarid regions of the Southwest at one extreme and more polar regions such as central and northern Alaska [at the other extreme]," Christensen said.