WASHINGTON — The $1 trillion infrastructure bill now headed to President Biden’s desk includes the largest amount of money ever spent by the United States to prepare the nation to withstand the devastating impacts of climate change.
The $47 billion in the bill designated for climate resilience is intended to help communities prepare for the new age of extreme fires, floods, storms and droughts that scientists say are worsened by human-caused climate change.
The money is the most explicit signal yet from the federal government that the economic damages of a warming planet have already arrived. Its approval by Congress with bipartisan support reflects an implicit acknowledgment of that fact by at least some Republicans, even though many of the party’s leaders still question or deny the established science of human-caused climate change.
“It’s a big deal, and we’ll build up our resilience for the next storm, drought, wildfires and hurricanes that indicate a blinking code red for America and the world,” Mr. Biden said in a speech in late October.
But still in limbo on Capitol Hill is a second, far larger spending bill that is packed with $555 billion intended to try to mitigate climate change, by reducing the carbon dioxide pollution that is trapping heat and driving up global temperatures.
House Democratic leaders on Friday came to the cusp of bringing that bill to the floor for a vote, but ultimately had to scrap the plans because they did not have enough support in their own caucus to pass it. They hope to attempt a vote before Thanksgiving.
“There’s a lot of good stuff in the infrastructure bill to help us prepare for climate upheaval, but that package does very little to affect emissions, and therefore won’t prevent climate upheaval,” said Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Democrat of Rhode Island, one of the most prominent champions of climate action in Congress.
“It’s significant that we could get a significant bipartisan measure that recognized that climate change was real and we need to protect our infrastructure against its impacts,” said Mr. Whitehouse. “But it’s not enough to just do repair work. We need to prevent the worse scenarios.”
The spending falls far short of the levels of government action that scientific reports have concluded is needed to either prevent or prepare for the worst impacts of climate change.
While the infrastructure bill would spend $47 billion to prepare the nation for worsening floods, fires and …….