Monday, February 19, 2018

Trump's Failure to Invest in Climate Resilient Infrastructure has Serious Consequences

By failing to invest in adaptation Trump has condemned future generations to unnecessary destruction. The longer we wait to invest in climate resilient infrastructure the more people will suffer and the more it will cost.  We can either pay for the losses as they occur or we can invest in the future and preempt calamity.

The Trump presidency is accurately described as a nightmare.  When his executive actions are viewed alongside his budget a clear picture emerges of an administration that is hell-bent on eroding environmental protections and killing climate action. Trump's actions are compounded by his energy insanity which favors fossil fuels and undermines renewables. While the rest of the world is investing in the green economy Trump is cutting taxes. Trump is on the wrong side of history and at odds with other leading heads-of-state.


Although the Trump administration ignores the dangers of climate change dozens of studies from scientists and engineers indicate that climate change related flooding and extreme weather already poses a threat to the nation's infrastructure. These studies conclude that we need infrastructure investments that are capable of withstanding the impacts from a changing climate.

Republican legislators, Trump and EPA administrator Scott Pruitt have all denied the veracity of climate science. However, federal government reports including a 2017 study from the EPA squarely refute the position of the Trump administration and the GOP.

Costs of climate inaction

Regardless of your political stripes ignoring adaptation does not add up. The nation simply cannot afford to avoid the costs of climate change. The longer we wait to address it the more it will cost. An IIED study indicates that if we do not invest in climate-resilient infrastructure the cost of climate change could be $1240 trillion.  Alternatively, the same report claims we can preempt the problem by investing $890 trillion in the green economy. By 2060 the mean [annual] impacts are estimated to be between $1.5 trillion and $20 trillion.

No matter how you look at the problem the costs of inaction are far greater thatn the costs of action. The benefits of reducing greenhouse gas emissions outweigh the costs by trillions of dollars. The results of the report by the German Institute of Economic Research and Watkiss et al. (2005) suggests the total cost of climate action (cost plus damages) by 2100 is approximately $12 trillion, while the cost of inaction (just damages) is approximately $20 trillion. As revealed in the Stern Review, the Risky Business report and countless other studies such investments will create jobs and generate economic opportunities.

Trump's politically motivated decision to ignore climate change in his budget (and elsewhere) will prove expensive. As explained in the New York Times,failure to incorporate climate impacts on infrastructure has costs down the road. Climate change must be incorporated into infrastructure planning or infrastructure will be lost.  

"The impact of not considering climate change when planning infrastructure means you end up building the wrong thing, in the wrong place, to the wrong standards," said Michael Kuby, a professor of geographical sciences and urban planning at Arizona State University and contributing author to the National Climate Assessment. "That’s a whole lot of waste." Kuby said.

According to an EPA report published in 2017, $280 billion is needed for climate resilient infrastructure.The report states that "proactive adaptation" will save up to 70 percent of future costs. Drainage systems, roads, bridges, rail lines, airports, harbors, and tunnels are all at risk.

"With climate change and infrastructure, it’s pay me now, or pay me later,"  said Eugene S. Takle, a co-author of that study and director of the climate science program at Iowa State University. Takle says if we fail to address the problem now we will, "pay a lot more later".

Eroding environmental requirements 

According to the Washington Post, critics claim Trump's plan to scale back environmental requirements for infrastructure projects could, "gut environmental protections". This includes the National Environmental Policy Act, the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act. A proposal to increase the use of "categorical exclusions" would eliminate environmental reviews. Another provision would see private firms pay for federal reviews of their own projects. Congress and the EPA's power to provide oversight would be significantly reduced. As explained by Theresa Pierno, president, and CEO of the nonprofit National Parks Conservation Association, "the proposal reveals that this administration is not serious about restoring America's infrastructure." According to Keith Benes, a State Department attorney involved in the Keystone XL application, it's not about streamlining or making it more effective its more like, "Let's get rid of that".

Bangalore Daily News reports that groups in Maine have expressed alarm regarding Trump's budget., They echo the sentiments of others all across the country. Jacqueline Guyol, campaign organizer with Environment Maine summarized Trump's attacks saying:

"Americans deserve clean air, clean water and protections for the places we love." Guyol said. "Yet President Trump’s budget would mean more pollution in our rivers and lakes, more days when the air is unsafe to breathe and more drilling in special places. The president’s budget also would mean fewer environmental cops on the beat, less research on renewable energy and fewer protections for our public lands and coasts."

Lisa Pohlmann, executive director of the Natural Resources Council of Maine was unequivocal about the dire consequences of Trumps failure to incorporate environmental and climate concerns into his budget.

"This says volumes about [Trump’s] disregard for clean air and clean water, his disrespect for the bipartisan efforts that have helped to protect our environment over the past 50 years, and his lack of understanding of the irrefutable reality of climate change." Pohlmann said. "Even as we wait for more details to unfold, we can say with certainty that if these cuts are allowed to stand, then the consequences for Maine, the nation, and the world could be dire."

Blueprint for destruction

The president of the NRDC, Rhea Suh describes Trump's budget as a "blueprint for destruction". Suh explains the budget will, "eviscerate environmental and health protections, stifle clean energy research, raid our public waters and lands, and abandon our children to the growing dangers of climate change". She points to the fact that 85 percent of Americans want the government to maintain or improve environmental protections.

Important institutions of government like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Energy are under siege from this administration. Trump's budget calls for massive cuts to funding and staffing at the EPA. The agency has already indicated that it is planning to substantially reduce its oversight. By Sept. 30, the EPA budget indicates that it will reduce by half the number of permitting-related decisions that exceed six months.

Even some Republicans are taking issue with Trump's budget proposal. In a prepared statement, Republican Rep. Bruce Poliquin said,"we must make sure we maintain support for programs and agencies that serve our families and communities and help protect our environment."

Trump's executive order in August wants to expedite the environmental approval process. As reported by Environmental Leader, law firm White & Case, suggest that this may require changes to federal environmental laws including the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the Clean Water Act, and the Clean Air Act.

"Trump's budget isn't a roadmap to the future. It's a blueprint for destruction that balloons the deficit, puts our environment and health at growing risk, and leaves our kids to pay the price. The country deserves better than that and so do our children," Suh said.

Despite the scientific consensus about the need to invest in climate resilience and the overwhelming logic of environmental oversight, Trump continues to play politics with our children's future. Trump's failure to support forward-thinking infrastructure costs jobs and the hurts the economy. It also increases the number of people that will suffer and die.

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