As hurricane after hurricane ravages Puerto Rico and the Gulf Coast, the Trump administration has quietly walked away from a government-wide effort to help the growing number of American communities whose very existence is threatened by climate change.
In the final year of the Obama administration, nearly a dozen federal agencies—led by the Department of Housing and Urban Development—began laying the groundwork for a cohesive federal approach to the so-called climate refugee problem. In December 2016, a top HUD official signed a memorandum of understanding, which would have committed these agencies to work together to develop a strategy for relocating homes, infrastructure, and—in some cases—entire municipalities put at risk by rising seas, melting permafrost, and more dangerous storms.
But since then, the group has done nothing, according to current and former officials familiar with the effort. No other agency appears to have signed off on HUD’s plan, and it has never gone into effect.