Warm Southern Breeze

"… there is no such thing as nothing."

Economic Infrastructure Strained By Severe Weather And Climate Change

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Sunday, February 10, 2019

Increasingly, there’s a political tie-in to almost every news story published these days. And frankly, I’d much rather write about other, more benign, or even pleasant topics. But, these matters affect us all, and our very lives and livelihoods are at stake. So, because these are pressing matters, I give heed to them, as I hope you do also.

Recently, NPR News published a story while our nation was in the throes of the “Polar Vortex,” which is the name now given to a severe “cold snap” which plunged much of the Midwest and East into literally Arctic temperatures. In fact, as we we’re told by numerous meteorologists and other weather / climate scientists and researchers, the Arctic was actually warmer than many places affected, most notably including Chicago, the Twin Cities (Minneapolis–Saint Paul), Iowa, Pennsylvania, and other states up through the area, with some locales suffering from temperatures which dipped down into the -23ºF range, or lower. Many Low Temperature records were surpassed, and when combined with Wind Chill Factors, temperatures feel like at least double that (-40ºF), and more.

A Minnesotan is extremely bundled up protecting every square inch of exposed skin while awaiting public transportation outdoors during extremely dangerous cold conditions which occurred during the 2019 Polar Vortex.

By all estimates, it was one of the most severe such events in recorded history, and was also the cause of numerous deaths of people of all ages and sexes (21 at last count, not all who were homeless), due of course, to cold temperature extremes. Homeless shelters throughout the affected areas were literally accepting anyone and everyone, and numerous other organizations and agencies created emergency shelters for others to avoid the deadly conditions. Area residents were severely warned to avoid going outdoors at all costs, simply because inadequate dressing, or any exposed skin would certainly suffer frostbite, or worse.

But there was another, largely overlooked problem which was only given cursory attention. And that was the effects and strains the severe climatic conditions placed upon infrastructure, which is often called economic infrastructure.

Essentially, infrastructure describes a nation’s internal facilities that enable business activity, which are fundamental requirements for economic development, which is vital to improvements in a country’s standard of living, and consists of facilities, activities and services that assist to increase overall economic productivity at a national level.

Infrastructure has two broad component parts: 1.) Social Infrastructure, consisting of basic services such as education, training, including health, sanitation, potable water supply, housing, sewerage, etc., while; 2.) Physical Infrastructure directly supports economic production, and consists primarily of supporting the production and distribution of products and services including agriculture, industry, and trade, supports, and directly increases productivity.

An example of Physical Infrastructure would be the production of hydroelectric dams by the Tennessee Valley Authority, creation of electrical power, communication, and natural gas delivery grids, roads, waterways, airports and railways for transportation, and potable water and waste treatment plants and their related delivery mechanisms and systems.

All those components must not only be created and developed, but they must be continually maintained, and improved as necessary, to continue to provide services vital to the economy. And it is maintenance which proves frequently to be the most expensive, and often overlooked, part of any such investment in the creation of the same precisely because it occurs over a longer-term, which is the lifespan of the component part, whatever it may be, road, bridge, airport, electrical power grid, or potable water and sanitation pipelines, etc.

Switch heaters come in a variety of forms. In Metra’s yards, Calrod tubular heaters use electricity to generate radiant heat at switch points. Hot air blowers, which use a combination of gas and electricity, clear other switches in other parts of Metra’s system. However, while the Calrod and hot air blowers are prefabricated systems that Metra purchased, the gas-fed flames at A-2 were customized explicitly for that interlocking.

In Chicago, a story about flames around and on the city’s trains’ tracks circulated, but again, wasn’t received to much fanfare. The Chicago Transit Authority and MetraRail had web pages alerting their customers and others of their efforts to preserve the rails, and as much as possible, continue service in such severe conditions. What was amazing to many, was the sight of fire along the city’s railways.

Called “switch heaters,” fires were lit exclusively in order to preserve the rails themselves from destruction because of contraction from extreme low temperatures, and warping, which could have split the rails at their junctions or attachment points, thereby causing catastrophic disaster, including possible loss of life.

https://metrarail.com/about-metra/newsroom/the-signal/fighting-fire-switch-heaters-2

https://www.transitchicago.com/winterprep/

But perhaps even greater than that, was the strain placed upon the Economic Infrastructures of Gas and Electrical Power Grids. And that story, along with others similarly, received only minimal exposure, and little, if any, public response.

MISO 2015 Service Area Map

Even those accustomed to perennially cold winter weather, such as Minnesotans, were nonplussed. The Minneapolis Star Tribune wrote that an area electrical power provider manager – Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO), “a not-for-profit member-based organization that ensures reliable, least-cost delivery of electricity across all or parts of 15 U.S. states and one Canadian province” – was searching across their operations area of the North American Electrical Power Grid for additional electricity to meet customers’ needs, because more electrical power generating plants had suffered outages than anticipated. MISO requested emergency assistance, and declared a “Maximum Generation Event” which in turn, brought electricity to the area from states as far away as Louisiana in order to meet the increased demand.

Crain’s Detroit Business reported that Consumers Energy Company had requested their gas customers in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula area to lower their residential thermostats to 65ºF, and that in response to the extremely cold temperatures, General Motors Corporation, and Ford Motor Company were temporarily closing some of their facilities – 12 and 4, respectively – and telling their employees to stay home in order to reduce demand upon the system.

DTE Service Area Map

DTE Energy (formerly Detroit Edison), “a Detroit-based diversified energy company” with natural gas pipelines throughout “Texas, Oklahoma, the Rockies, Appalachia, the Gulf of Mexico and western Canada,” had also asked their customers to reduce their gas and electricity consumption during that time to avoid excessively straining their system which in turn could cause outages.

These examples, and more, all point to the extent of the severity of the cold weather event, the almost-unexpected consequences it had upon resources vital to life itself, not merely to business, and demonstrates the need for rapid change, which includes renovation, revitalization, expansion, and reinvigoration to those and other critical economic infrastructures – especially the Electrical Power, and Natural Gas Delivery Grids.

Last year, the City of Detroit replaced 25 miles of water mains, has been in the process of responding to increased demands placed upon their aged and deteriorating water and sewerage infrastructure, and is in the second year of a $500 million program rehabilitating, replacing and improving those systems.

Distributed Energy Resources differ from the traditional electrical power delivery system, and is incorporated into the overall Power Grid.

Increasingly, as are others, MISO is incorporating Distributed Energy Resources (DER) into their electrical power grid in an effort to provide continuously sustained, and uninterrupted delivery of electrical power throughout their service area, particularly during periods of increased demand.

Simply put, Distributed Energy Resources are “non-traditional” methods of electrical power generation which are often smaller in size, closer to the ultimate consumers, and include solar, wind, geothermal, and biomass generation, and more. For example, a facility or residence with solar power collection panels could produce more electricity than that site consumes, which in turn, would be “fed back into” the electrical power grid and redirected to locales where greater demand or need exists. In some areas, States’ regulations allow Net Metering, which describes the consumers’ ability to sell excess electricity generated (most often by solar panels) to the Electrical Service Provider, and sometimes at the same rate it is sold to that consumer, either residential, or commercial.

Whether one “believes” it, or not, and regardless of any causes
– whether human-influenced, or not, and without regard to any other factor –
we must be wise, agile and flexible enough,
in order to rapidly respond to the needs and demands placed upon
the critical resources upon which we rely
– Economic Infrastructure –
(which are occurring as a result of climate change),
valuing human life most of all.

Again, our response to the bordering-on-catastrophic environmental changes now occurring should not be based upon “who is right” about the causes, any debated or perceived frequency of occurrences, or any other factor, but instead should be based upon the damage now being done, and all efforts to mitigate the same should be implemented rapidly. Those matters are threatening to life itself – life of livestock, life of agriculture, business and economic life, and yes, naturally and primarily, even human life. Whether we like it, or not, the future is upon us, and while we cannot by any means delay our entry into it, we can certainly prepare for it, and to do so demonstrates wisdom.

Global Weather Catastrophes, Trends, Losses, Insurance Costs Source: Managing Physical Climate Risk—Leveraging Innovations in Catastrophe Risk Modelling, by The Geneva Association, a leading international think tank of the insurance industry, which detects early ideas and emerging debates on political, economic and societal issues concerning the insurance industry.

Essentially, what this means for us, and for everyone, is money. There are now already costs being exacted by climate change, and there is no denying those events, for they are the stuff of a 24/7/365 always-on worldwide news cycle. If something happens on the opposite side of the globe, the entire world will know it no less than 30 minutes later. Satellite telecommunication, and the Internet have assuredly brought us to the cusp of instant global communication, in living color, with video and sound, regardless of one’s location.

In response, large insurers are rapidly raising their rates for areas prone to climatic disaster, and in some cases, refusing to insure residents because of the extent of losses which they’ve had to pay out in recent years. And because paying claims affects Big Insurance companies’ fiscal “bottom line” aka profitability, their stock price, company valuation, and ultimately shareholder payout, they’re changing their policies in response to the certainties of now-inevitable, regularly-occurring, seasonal climatic disasters and the associated monetary losses.

And when Wall Street talks, people listen… or, so it seems.

Legislators and policymakers however, have been reluctant to act, to plan to ameliorate or prevent such catastrophic loss, whether fiscally, materially, or in lost human lives, either by replacing, reinforcing, or strengthening such critical infrastructures. Often, lawmakers are reluctant to act precisely because, more often than not, it means an increase in taxes, either by type or rate, to pay for the necessary changes. And yet, when compared to the long-term savings versus short-and-intermediate term aggregate loss, the savings enjoyed from such implementations pay for themselves.

Image made by U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) from a U.S. Army helicopter of the 1953 North Sea Flood in the Netherlands.

A well-know case in point to illustrate is the North Sea Flood of 1953. Described as the worst natural disaster in Europe in modern times, the flooding occurred over a two-day period January 31 – February 1, and affected Netherlands, Belgium, England and Scotland, with a total of 2551 lives lost, and 1836 in the Netherlands alone. Dutch losses were particuarly enormous, principally because 20% of the nation’s land lies below sea level, with 50% of it lying less than 1 meter (3.3 ft) above sea level, and 60% of it all is prone to flooding. In that flood, a total of 9% of all farmland was submerged, 30,000 animals drowned, 47,300 buildings were damaged, of which 10,000 were totally destroyed, which cost an estimated $636 million in 1953 dollars in real and economic loss. Relief was an international effort, and even U.S. Army helicopters were flown from bases in Germany to rescue those stranded upon their roofs. And that was just in the Netherlands, alone. Other nations were severely affected.

But in response, the Dutch did something that Americans have not, and that was to plan – and plan BIG – to reduce the likelihood and extent of damage from such disasters, and as much as possible, prevent such catastrophic losses from ever occurring again, despite the fact that notoriously wicked North Sea storms have been ongoing for at least 1,179 years, occur practically without warning, have never abated, and have increased in intensity.

Declared one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World by the American Society of Civil Engineers, the Dutch created Delta Works, consisting of a series of dams, dykes, locks, levees, sluices and storm surge barriers located throughout the provinces of South Holland and Zeeland to ameliorate or eliminate flooding and all related damage. The project was conceived as an ultimate, long-term solution to, and practical end of the ongoing problem of regular flooding from unpredictable North Sea storms. Their perspective was with a very long-term view toward the future, and established protections for failure occurrences which would occur at least:

1 per 10,000 years in North and South Holland (excluding Wieringermeer);
1 per 4,000 years for other areas at risk from sea flooding;
1 per 2,000 years for transition areas between high land and low land;
1 per 1,250 years for South Holland areas at risk from river flooding, and;
1 per 250 years for other areas at risk from river flooding.

Planning and construction for the project began in 1954, with costs estimated at approximately 3.3 billion guilder, which at the time equaled 20% of national GDP, and was spread out over 25 years to complete such a massive engineering project. Costs were financed primarily by their national budget, with an American contribution through the Marshall Plan of 400 milion guilder. As well, the discovery of Dutch natural gas resources provided significant contributions toward financing, and upon completion in 1997, costs were established at 8.2 billion guilder.

A December 2013 North Sea storm named Cyclone Xaver pounding the coast at Porthleven, Cornwall, England. A total of 12 nations were affected by that severe storm with flooding, and wind gusts over 140mph, and sustained winds over 90mph.

Cyclone Xaver, a North Sea storm which occurred December 2013, packed wind gusts over 142mph, sustained winds over 90mph, claimed 15 lives, and affected numerous European nations, including:
United Kingdom United Kingdom
Republic of Ireland Republic of Ireland
Netherlands Netherlands
Germany Germany
Denmark Denmark
 Faroe Islands
Sweden Sweden
Norway Norway
Poland Poland
Lithuania Lithuania
Isle of Man Isle of Man
Belgium Belgium

While Netherlanders were affected, the damage done was significantly lessened by the effective presence of Delta Works projects. Water levels reached their highest since the North Sea flood of 1953 at nearly 4 meters above normal sea level. In response, the Eastern Scheldt storm surge barrier closed all 62 locks the night of 5 December, and several areas around Rotterdam experienced some flooding, with only minor flooding reported in Dordrecht and Vlaardingen.

In contrast, the water level of the 1953 storm rose to 4.55 meters the night of 1 February, and dykes broke in at least 90 places, which made it the worst natural disaster in the Netherlands since the 1900s.

The Delta Works website is here: http://www.deltawerken.com/en/10.html?setlanguage=en

In the United States, Hurricane Fran in August/September 1996 cost $5 Billion, and wrought a death toll of 27.  Fast forward about 10 years, or so, and then beyond, and notice the patterns, and the differences – an increase in frequency, and cost.

• Hurricane Katrina in August 2005 cost $125 Billion, and claimed 1836 lives.

• Hurricane Matthew in September/October 2016 cost over $15 Billion, and killed 603.

• Hurricane Harvey flooded Houston, Texas in August 2017, cost over $127 Billion, with 107 deaths.

The 30 Deadliest 1854-2004, and Costliest hurricanes, from 1900-2004. From: https://www.nhc.noaa.gov/pdf/NWS-TPC-4.pdf

• Hurricane Irma in August/September 2017 cost $64.76 Billion, and took 134 lives.

• Hurricane Maria in September 2017 cost $91.6 Billion and killed 3057.

• Hurricane Florence in August/September 2018 cost well over $17.9 Billion, and claimed 57 lives.

The 2018 Atlantic Hurricane Season, which lasted from May to October 2018, cost well over $33 Billion, and took 170 lives.

U.S. Mainland Hurricane Strikes by State, 1851-2004
The following table is derived from NOAA Technical Memorandum NWS TPC-4:
THE DEADLIEST, COSTLIEST, AND MOST INTENSE UNITED STATES HURRICANES FROM 1851 TO 2004
(AND OTHER FREQUENTLY REQUESTED HURRICANE FACTS)
by Eric S. Blake, Jerry D. Jarrell (retired), and Edward N. Rappaport, NOAA/NWS/ Tropical Prediction Center, Miami, Florida, and; Christopher W. Landsea, NOAA/AOML/Hurricane Research Division, Miami, Florida
From: https://www.nhc.noaa.gov/paststate.shtml

But hurricanes are not the only evidence of damage done by climate change, though they may be the most visible. Droughts are responsible for lost crops and livestock, and exacerbate wildfires, which have occurred with greater intensity and frequency, especially and particularly in the West.

• The Camp wildfire which began November 2018, and damaged Butte County, California consumed 153,336 acres, destroyed 18,804 structures, killed 86, and is the deadliest in the state’s history.

• The Woolsey Fire which began November 2018 and affected Ventura, and Los Angeles Counties, burned 96,949 acres, and 1643 structures.

2018 California Fire Map, showing locations Major incidents in California in which CAL FIRE was either the lead agency or assisting. See: https://www.google.com/maps/d/viewer?mid=1HacmM5E2ueL-FT2c6QMVzoAmE5M19GAf&hl=en

• The Carr Fire which began July 2018, in Shasta and Trinity Counties, burned 229,651 acres, destroyed 1604 structures, and claimed 8 lives.

• The Mendocino Complex Fire which began July 2018, and affected Mendocino, Glenn, Lake, and Colusa Counties, burned 459,123 acres, destroyed 280 structures, and claimed 1 life.

• The Thomas Fire which began December 2017, affected Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties, burned 281,893 acres, 1063 structures, and caused 23 deaths.

• The Tubbs Fire which began October 2017, burned in Napa and Sonoma Counties, burned 36,807 acres, 5,636 structures, and killed 22.

• The Atlas Fire which began October 2017, burned in Napa and Solano Counties, burned 51,624 acres, 783 structures, and killed 6.

• The Redwood Valley Fire which began October 2017, burned in Mendocino County, burned 36,523 acres, 544 structures, and killed 9 lives.

California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection listed Fire Suppression costs for California alone, for the following years:

California State Wildfire Costs (Suppression Only)

Year Suppression Costs
(Million$)
Cumulative Total
(Million$)
2008—2009 $499 $499
2009—2010 $274+ $773
2010—2011 $90.1 $863.1
2011—2012 $140 $1003.1
2012—2013 $310 $1313.1
2013—2014 $242 $1555.1
2014—2015 $402 $1957.1
2015—2016 $608 $2565.1
2016—2017 $534 $3099.1
2017—2018 $947.4 $4,046.5
2018—2019
(estimated)
$676.8 $4,723.3
GRAND TOTAL $4,723.3

That’s firefighting costs only, in California ALONE.

At the Federal level, here are: Federal Firefighting Costs (Suppression Only).

Year

Fires

Acres

Forest Service
(Million$)

Department of Interior
(DOI) Agencies
(Million$)

Total
(Million$)

2000

92,250

7,383,493

$1,076,000

$334,802

$1,410,802

2001

84,079

3,570,911

$683,122

$269,574

$952,696

2002

84,079

3,570,911

$683,122

$269,574

$952,696

2003

63,629

3,960,842

$1,023,500

$303,638

$1,327,138

2004

65,461

8,097,880

$726,000

$281,244

$1,007,244

2005

66,753

8,689,389

$524,900

$294,054

$818,954

2006

96,385

9,873,745

$1,280,419

$424,058

$1,704,477

2007

85,705

9,328,045

$1,149,654

$470,491

$1,620,145

2008

78,979

5,292,468

$1,193,073

$392,783

$1,585,856

2009

78,792

5,921,786

$702,111

$218,418

$920,529

2010

71,971

3,422,724

$578,285

$231,214

$809,499

2011

74,126

8,711,367

$1,055,736

$318,789

$1,374,525

2012

67,774

9,326,238

$1,436,614

$465,832

$1,902,446

2013

47,579

4,319,546

$1,341,735

$399,199

$1,740,934

2014

63,212

3,595,613

$1,195,955

$326,194

$1,522,149

2015

68,151

10,125,149

$1,713,000

$417,543

$2,130,543

2016

67,595

5,503,538

$1,603,806

$371,739

$1,975,545

2017

71,499

10,026,086

$2,410,165

$508,000

$2,918,165

  TOTALS

  1,328,019

  120,719,731

$20,377,197

$6,297,146

   $26,674,343

 

This map depicts the general location of the fourteen weather and climate disasters assessed to cause at least one billion dollars in direct damages during 2018. Source: https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/billions/

According to NOAA, “the U.S. has sustained 241 weather and climate disasters since 1980 where overall damages/costs reached or exceeded $1 billion (including CPI adjustment to 2018). The total cost of these 241 events exceeds $1.6 trillion.

“During 2018, the U.S. experienced an active year of billion-dollar disaster events including the 4th highest total number of events, only behind the years 2017, 2011 and 2016. In 2018, the U.S. also experienced the 4th highest total costs ($91 billion) only behind the years 2017, 2005 and 2012.

“In 2018, there were 14 weather and climate disaster events with losses exceeding $1 billion each across the United States. These events included 1 drought event, 8 severe storm events, 2 tropical cyclone events, 1 wildfire event, and 2 winter storm events. Overall, these events resulted in the deaths of 247 people and had significant economic effects on the areas impacted. The 1980–2018 annual average is 6.2 events (CPI-adjusted); the annual average for the most recent 5 years (2014–2018) is 12.6 events (CPI-adjusted).”

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) stated in their 2017 Infrastructure Report Card that, “The 2017 Infrastructure Report Card found the national grade for infrastructure remains at a “D+” — the same grade the United States received in 2013.”

They wrote further that, “According to the American Water Works Association, an estimated $1 trillion is necessary to maintain and expand service to meet demands over the next 25 years.” That’s for drinking water alone.

The ASCE listed 16 categories of Infrastructure, which are vital to our nation’s economic survival, and issued a “report card grading system” to them to enable greater public understanding of how critical they are to us all, and what role they play in our greater economy. Here are a few summaries:

Of our nation’s Energy Infrastructure – which earned a D+ grade – they wrote that:

“Much of the U.S. energy system predates the turn of the 21st century. Most electric transmission and distribution lines were constructed in the 1950s and 1960s with a 50-year life expectancy, and the more than 640,000 miles of high-voltage transmission lines in the lower 48 states’ power grids are at full capacity. Energy infrastructure is undergoing increased investment to ensure long-term capacity and sustainability; in 2015, 40% of additional power generation came from natural gas and renewable systems. Without greater attention to aging equipment, capacity bottlenecks, and increased demand, as well as increasing storm and climate impacts, Americans will likely experience longer and more frequent power interruptions.”

Of our nation’s Levees – which earned a grade D – they wrote that:

“A nationwide network of 30,000 documented miles of levees protects communities, critical infrastructure, and valuable property, with levees in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Levee Safety Program protecting over 300 colleges and universities, 30 professional sports venues, 100 breweries, and an estimated $1.3 trillion in property. As development continues to encroach in floodplains along rivers and coastal areas, an estimated $80 billion is needed in the next 10 years to maintain and improve the nation’s system of levees. In 2014 Congress passed the Water Resources Reform and Development Act, which expanded the levee safety program nationwide, but the program has not yet received any funding.”

Concerning Wastewater – which had a D+ grade – they wrote that:

“The nation’s 14,748 wastewater treatment plants are the most basic and critical infrastructure systems for protecting public health and the environment. Years of treatment plant upgrades and more stringent federal and state regulations have significantly reduced untreated releases and improved water quality nationwide. It’s expected that more than 56 million new users will be connected to centralized treatment systems over the next two decades, requiring at least $271 billion to meet current and future demands. New methods and technologies turn waste into energy relying on the nation’s 1,269 biogas plants to help communities to better manage waste streams through reuse.”

Of our nation’s Roads – with a grade D – they wrote:

“America’s roads are often crowded, frequently in poor condition, chronically underfunded, and are becoming more dangerous. More than two out of every five miles of America’s urban interstates are congested and traffic delays cost the country $160 billion in wasted time and fuel in 2014. One out of every five miles of highway pavement is in poor condition and our roads have a significant and increasing backlog of rehabilitation needs. After years of decline, traffic fatalities increased by 7% from 2014 to 2015, with 35,092 people dying on America’s roads.”

Regarding Aviation – which earned a grade D – they wrote:

“U.S. airports serve more than two million passengers every day. The aviation industry is marked by technologically advanced and economically efficient aircraft, however, the associated infrastructure of airports and air traffic control systems is not keeping up. Congestion at airports is growing; it is expected that 24 of the top 30 major airports may soon experience “Thanksgiving-peak traffic volume” at least one day every week. With a federally mandated cap on how much airports can charge passengers for facility expansion and renovation, airports struggle to keep up with investment needs, creating a $42 billion funding gap between 2016 and 2025.”

Solid Waste – which earned a C+ grade – needs help:

“Overall management of municipal solid waste (MSW) across America is currently in fair condition. In many cases the transport and disposal of MSW is self-funding and managed by the private sector, and therefore is sufficiently funded. Americans annually generate about 258 million tons of MSW of which approximately 53% is deposited in landfills – a share that has plateaued in recent years. Currently, 35% of MSW is recycled and 13% is combusted for energy production. There is a need to change the way we think of how solid waste is generated, managed, and potentially used as a resource. We need to recognize that what is routinely discarded may in fact be a reusable resource.”

Schools fared worse – with a D+ grade – and need significant help:

“Every school day, nearly 50 million K-12 students and 6 million adults occupy close to 100,000 public school buildings on an estimated two million acres of land. While state and local governments make significant investment in public K-12 schools infrastructure and schools play important civic, educational, and public safety roles in communities, the nation continues to underinvest in school facilities, leaving an estimated $38 billion annual gap. As a result, 24% of public school buildings were rated as being in fair or poor condition. While there have been a number of insightful reports in recent years, state and local governments are plagued by a lack of comprehensive data on public school infrastructure as they seek to fund, plan, construct, and maintain quality school facilities.”

Bridges fared only slightly better – graded as C+ – and need attention:

“The U.S. has 614,387 bridges, almost four in 10 of which are 50 years or older. 56,007 — 9.1% — of the nation’s bridges were structurally deficient in 2016, and on average there were 188 million trips across a structurally deficient bridge each day. While the number of bridges that are in such poor condition as to be considered structurally deficient is decreasing, the average age of America’s bridges keeps going up and many of the nation’s bridges are approaching the end of their design life. The most recent estimate puts the nation’s backlog of bridge rehabilitation needs at $123 billion.”

Our nation’s Inland Waterways – which scored D – are not faring well:

“The United States’ 25,000 miles of inland waterways and 239 locks form the freight network’s “water highway.” This intricate system, operated and maintained by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, supports more than half a million jobs and delivers more than 600 million tons of cargo each year, about 14% of all domestic freight. Most locks and dams on the system are well beyond their 50-year design life, and nearly half of vessels experience delays. Investment in the waterways system has increased in recent years, but upgrades on the system still take decades to complete.”

The remaining 7 categories and their respective grades are:
Ports: C+
Public Parks: D+
Rail: B
Transit: D-
Hazardous Waste: D+
Dams: D
Drinking Water: D

While by no means are they the exclusive needs, these problems enumerated herein – many or most which are exacerbated and frustrated by climate change – are among our nation’s MOST pressing needs. And as seen by what Netherlanders did beginning in 1954, the damages they wreak and costly tolls exacted upon our economy can be ameliorated, and quite likely prevented.

How much will these things cost?

Rhetorically, I answer by saying that the cost of doing nothing has been evidenced and cited here within. Do we have the stomach to save our lives in the intermediate term, and the lives of those who will come many years beyond us?

It will come at a price, and it will not occur in the short term. These projects may require a duration at least 30 years, or more, and will undoubtedly cost trillions of dollars – yet NOAA has already found that the TOTAL cost of losses from 241 weather and climate disasters since 1980 exceeds $1.6 trillion.

But the long-term savings will more than recoup the short and intermediate term costs to exercise responsive and preventive measures. Fix them, and many things will be much better. The economy will become much more stabilized, reinforced, and productive.

The only question remaining is:

Do we have the will?

 

Deep Freeze Puts Strain On Midwest Gas And Electricity Grids
https://www.npr.org/690230462

One Response to “Economic Infrastructure Strained By Severe Weather And Climate Change”

  1. […] to the 2018 National Climate Assessment, climate change is already driving more severe droughts, floods and wildfires in the U.S. And those […]

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