The disaster governors

Source: BY MATTHEW CHOI, Politico • Posted: Wednesday, October 13, 2021

With climate change increasing the severity of weather disasters, governors of several Northeastern states are increasingly turning to each other for advice on dealing with these events as they brace for more dangerous disasters to come.

“We’re all comparing notes,” New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy told POLITICO’s Ry Rivard and Katherine Landergan. “And I think we all feel like we’re being dragged along.” Murphy said he also talks with California Gov. Gavin Newsom, who has overseen the emergency response to countless droughts and wildfires in his state.

“The West is experiencing their own awful climate events, drought and fires. Ours is flooding, but I think they’re all the pieces of climate change,” Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf said in an interview with POLITICO. “We’ve got to acknowledge that.”

Climate change and extreme weather are altering the ways the governors are approaching their jobs, with disaster response interrupting elections, budgets and normal policy making. And governors are often judged on their ability — or inability —to navigate a weather crisis. Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco didn’t run for reelection in 2007 after her heavily criticized response to the destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina in August 2005.

The worsening climate disasters could also lead governors to increase pressure on the federal government to do more to combat climate change, namely by tackling the problem on a national scale, reducing greenhouse gas and propelling a transition away from fossil fuels. Wolf said federal disaster response doesn’t appear to be keeping up with the changing landscape, leaving governors to pick up the pieces.

The devastating impacts of Hurricane Ida, which killed 30 people in New Jersey, could help convince people to implement clean energy and climate policies, according to Murphy.

“It’s got to be, sadly, a very stark, tragic reminder that we’ve got to act, we’ve got to get out ahead of this, we can’t continue to be dragged by this,” he said.