FEMA Director Brock Long Is the Latest Trump Official to Resign Amid Spending Scandals
Brock Long, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) director who oversaw the agency's controversial response to Hurricane Maria, announced his resignation Wednesday.
"It has been a great honor to serve our country as @fema Administrator for the past two years. While this has been the opportunity of the lifetime, it is time for me to go home to my family," Long said in a tweet announcing his departure.
It has been a great honor to serve our country as @fema Administrator for the past two years. While this has been t… https://t.co/uEH4C6SU3W— Peter Gaynor (@Peter Gaynor)1550089593.0
His resignation comes as Congressional Democrats, including Elizabeth Warren, have repeatedly called for an investigation into FEMA's Hurricane Maria response in Puerto Rico, where nearly 3,000 people died in the wake of the storm, the Huffington Post reported.
Thousands of US citizens in Puerto Rico died during Hurricane Maria and its aftermath. Brock Long oversaw the Trump… https://t.co/XGgl2gg561— Elizabeth Warren (@Elizabeth Warren)1550110181.0
A University of Michigan led study released in January found that the federal response to Hurricane Maria was both slower and less generous than the response to Hurricanes Irma and Harvey in Florida and Texas. Long won praise early in his tenure for his response to Hurricane Harvey, The New York Times reported.
San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, who has been a vocal critic of the Trump administration's Maria response, commented on Long's departure on Twitter.
"Brock Long was Trump's hatchet man in the botched Puerto Rican relief effort after hurricanes Irma and María. He should have been fired and held accountable for the loss of live. Thank you for nothing, next," she wrote.
Brock Long was Trump’s hatchet man in the botched Puerto Rican relief effort after hurricanes Irma and María. He sh… https://t.co/gyCr3rzoaQ— Carmen Yulín Cruz (@Carmen Yulín Cruz)1550111128.0
Puerto Rico's Governor Ricardo Rossello took a softer, but still critical, stance, wishing Long well but calling his departure an "opportunity."
"We hope the battles over the last 18 months, due to unequal treatment can turn into the efficient assistance needed," he wrote.
.@FEMA_Brock resignation offers a reset opportunity for a more effective collaboration. We hope the battles over th… https://t.co/IDEHyzLTKn— Ricardo Rosselló (@Ricardo Rosselló)1550098812.0
Long was also under pressure because of a September discovery by the Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security that he violated rules by using government vehicles to travel back and forth to his home in North Carolina, as well as while on vacation with his family in Hawaii, The New York Times reported.
"The FEMA administrator is supposed to be focused on preparing for disasters like the devastating hurricanes that killed thousands of Americans in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands—not using government vehicles to shuttle his family around Hawaii at taxpayer expense," then top House Oversight Committee Democrat and Maryland Representative Elijah E. Cummings said at the time, according to The New York Times. "Administrator Long's apparent violations of federal law for his own personal benefit are another example of how senior officials in the Trump administration continue to use American taxpayer money."
Long follows former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and former U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt in resigning after a scandal involving misuse of government resources for personal gain.
Long ran FEMA for two years and oversaw more than 220 declared disasters, according to his departure statement. He said he would depart to return to his wife and two sons. Deputy Administrator Peter Gaynor will step into the position of Acting Administrator following his departure.
Long had a background in emergency management before President Donald Trump nominated him to run FEMA, having directed the Alabama Emergency Management Agency from 2008 to 2011, The New York Times reported.
'Climate Change' Removed From FEMA's Strategic Plan https://t.co/9kst5Lvkld @TheCCoalition @ClimateCentral @carbonfinance— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1521279017.0
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A Game of Jenga<p>Think of it as a game of Jenga and the planet's climate system as the tower. For generations, we have been slowly removing blocks. But at some point, we will remove a pivotal block, such as the collapse of one of the major global ocean circulation systems, for example the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), that will cause all or part of the global climate system to fall into a planetary emergency.</p><p>But worse still, it could cause runaway damage: Where the tipping points form a domino-like cascade, where breaching one triggers breaches of others, creating an unstoppable shift to a radically and swiftly changing climate.</p><p>One of the most concerning tipping points is mass methane release. Methane can be found in deep freeze storage within permafrost and at the bottom of the deepest oceans in the form of methane hydrates. But rising sea and air temperatures are beginning to thaw these stores of methane.</p><p>This would release a powerful greenhouse gas into the atmosphere, 30-times more potent than carbon dioxide as a global warming agent. This would drastically increase temperatures and rush us towards the breach of other tipping points.</p><p>This could include the acceleration of ice thaw on all three of the globe's large, land-based ice sheets – Greenland, West Antarctica and the Wilkes Basin in East Antarctica. The potential collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet is seen as a key tipping point, as its loss could eventually <a href="https://science.sciencemag.org/content/324/5929/901" target="_blank">raise global sea levels by 3.3 meters</a> with important regional variations.</p><p>More than that, we would be on the irreversible path to full land-ice melt, causing sea levels to rise by up to 30 meters, roughly at the rate of two meters per century, or maybe faster. Just look at the raised beaches around the world, at the last high stand of global sea level, at the end of the Pleistocene period around 120,0000 years ago, to see the evidence of such a warm world, which was just 2°C warmer than the present day.</p>
Cutting Off Circulation<p>As well as devastating low-lying and coastal areas around the world, melting polar ice could set off another tipping point: a disablement to the AMOC.</p><p>This circulation system drives a northward flow of warm, salty water on the upper layers of the ocean from the tropics to the northeast Atlantic region, and a southward flow of cold water deep in the ocean.</p><p>The ocean conveyor belt has a major effect on the climate, seasonal cycles and temperature in western and northern Europe. It means the region is warmer than other areas of similar latitude.</p><p>But melting ice from the Greenland ice sheet could threaten the AMOC system. It would dilute the salty sea water in the north Atlantic, making the water lighter and less able or unable to sink. This would slow the engine that drives this ocean circulation.</p><p><a href="https://www.carbonbrief.org/atlantic-conveyor-belt-has-slowed-15-per-cent-since-mid-twentieth-century" target="_blank">Recent research</a> suggests the AMOC has already weakened by around 15% since the middle of the 20th century. If this continues, it could have a major impact on the climate of the northern hemisphere, but particularly Europe. It may even lead to the <a href="https://ore.exeter.ac.uk/repository/handle/10871/39731?show=full" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cessation of arable farming</a> in the UK, for instance.</p><p>It may also reduce rainfall over the Amazon basin, impact the monsoon systems in Asia and, by bringing warm waters into the Southern Ocean, further destabilize ice in Antarctica and accelerate global sea level rise.</p>
The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation has a major effect on the climate. Praetorius (2018)
Is it Time to Declare a Climate Emergency?<p>At what stage, and at what rise in global temperatures, will these tipping points be reached? No one is entirely sure. It may take centuries, millennia or it could be imminent.</p><p>But as COVID-19 taught us, we need to prepare for the expected. We were aware of the risk of a pandemic. We also knew that we were not sufficiently prepared. But we didn't act in a meaningful manner. Thankfully, we have been able to fast-track the production of vaccines to combat COVID-19. But there is no vaccine for climate change once we have passed these tipping points.</p><p><a href="https://www.weforum.org/reports/the-global-risks-report-2021" target="_blank">We need to act now on our climate</a>. Act like these tipping points are imminent. And stop thinking of climate change as a slow-moving, long-term threat that enables us to kick the problem down the road and let future generations deal with it. We must take immediate action to reduce global warming and fulfill our commitments to the <a href="https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Paris Agreement</a>, and build resilience with these tipping points in mind.</p><p>We need to plan now to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, but we also need to plan for the impacts, such as the ability to feed everyone on the planet, develop plans to manage flood risk, as well as manage the social and geopolitical impacts of human migrations that will be a consequence of fight or flight decisions.</p><p>Breaching these tipping points would be cataclysmic and potentially far more devastating than COVID-19. Some may not enjoy hearing these messages, or consider them to be in the realm of science fiction. But if it injects a sense of urgency to make us respond to climate change like we have done to the pandemic, then we must talk more about what has happened before and will happen again.</p><p>Otherwise we will continue playing Jenga with our planet. And ultimately, there will only be one loser – us.</p>
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