Yohe Writes Infrastructure Planning Must Factor in Climate Change

Lauren RubensteinJuly 17, 20173min
Gary Yohe

Gary Yohe, the Huffington Foundation Professor of Economics and Environmental Studies, writes in HuffPost that the Trump Administration must acknowledge and factor in the effects of climate change when it tackles American infrastructure. Unfortunately, he writes, “The Trump administration, to varying degrees, has claimed time and time again that it’s impossible to know the impact of human activity on our climate.”

To “make infrastructure great again,” any and all legislation should absolutely consider climate change when planning for the future of America’s roads, bridges, electric grid and other important systems. To deny its impact on infrastructure is to force states to pay to build and rebuild after climate-fueled natural disasters that will become more frequent and more intense. Not factoring climate into infrastructure improvements is a waste of taxpayer dollars, plain and simple.

As an example, Yohe points to Vermont, where Hurricane Irene damaged or destroyed more than 300 bridges, 800 homes and businesses, and 6 railroad lines, and killed at least three people.

Vermont balked mightily when FEMA rejected their plan to upgrade certain bridges for cause in comparison to uniform pre-disaster designs that then existing federal codes required. They appealed the necessity of uniform standards on length, height, and location and, fortunately for taxpayers, they won exceptions on November 9, 2016, for bridges built in constricted urban spaces and high-volume locations dominated by high sediment transport. Note the 5-year discrepancy in time.

Vermonters understood in 2011 that they were living in a non-stationary climate. For their own good, they risked forfeiting federal reimbursement by deciding to move forward without prior and guaranteed FEMA approval. They have successfully endured a number of very large storms since, but they are more secure for eschewing the notion that one failed bridge design should fit all.

Yohe goes on to describe how we must take climate change into account when planning for the future of our health care system and new port facilities.