Wednesday, April 04, 2018

Meet the Climate Guy Working for Trump

Joel Scheraga, senior adviser for climate adaptation at U.S. EPA, speaking about the impacts of climate change on Lake Superior in 2007. (Credit: University of Minnesota Sea Grant Program) Click to Enlarge.
The Trump administration is proudly axing U.S. EPA's high-profile climate rules, but climate adaptation work is quietly chugging along at the agency.

The agency's adaptation work hasn't gotten much public attention since the Trump administration moved in.  Administrator Scott Pruitt made it known that he wanted to steer the agency away from climate work, and the president himself has cast doubt on mainstream climate science.

But EPA's climate adaptation efforts are continuing under Trump, even if they don't have the staffing and the prominence they had under the Obama administration.  Some adaptation proponents are hopeful that the work can survive budget cuts, because it can appeal even to those who question humans' impact on climate change or costly policies to curb emissions.

Leading the effort at EPA is Joel Scheraga, a career staffer for 31 years.  He's a senior adviser for climate change adaptation in EPA's policy office and oversees a cross-agency working group on adaptation.

"I think [adaptation] is an important middle ground, and I think that it's something that people all across the spectrum can understand and can support," Scheraga told E&E News yesterday in an interview.

The fate of EPA's adaptation work appeared uncertain early last year.

President Trump jettisoned an Obama-era government-wide executive order on climate adaptation.  At EPA, what had been a four-person climate adaptation team in the policy office was disbanded.  Scheraga remained in the program, but his colleagues were reassigned.  The cross-EPA working group was on hold, waiting for a signal from leadership about its priorities.

But the group — consisting of dozens of staffers from throughout agency programs — restarted early this year.  "Once we got a clear signal that there was continuing and ongoing support for the work on adaptation, we immediately reconvened the work group," he said.

Scheraga has the support of Samantha Dravis, who heads Pruitt's policy shop.

"Samantha asked me explicitly, unequivocally to keep working on climate adaptation," he said.

Dravis told E&E News in a statement:  "Joel Scheraga's work on climate adaptation is an important component of the Office of Policy's work — in concert with our Office of Sustainable Communities and the Office of Environmental Justice.  Dr. Scheraga has successfully led EPA's cross-agency work group on climate adaptation and I believe that it is important we consider adaptation as we proceed with a number of Administrator Pruitt's priorities."

The administration also supports his top priority, the Climate Change Adaptation Resource Center (ARC-X), he said.  The online tool is intended to help local governments find information about the risks posed by climate change, strategies to adapt and opportunities to get EPA funding.

That tool is "a great example of how serious and supportive EPA is of our adaptation work," Scheraga said.  "Samantha supported my budget request for the work that we want to do" — on ARC-X in particular, he said.  The goal of ARC-X from the get-go was to help 40,000 communities across the country prepare for the impacts of climate change, he said.  "The agency is continuing to support the enhancement of that system."

Read more at Meet the Climate Guy Working for Trump

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