394 Prioritizing Actions to Adapt America’s Infrastructure for Climate Change—Overview

Monday, 13 January 2020
Hall B (Boston Convention and Exhibition Center)
William J. Capehart, South Dakota School of Mines, Rapid City, SD; and M. Tye, J. Giovannettone, A. AghaKouchak, A. P. Barros, R. E. Beighley, E. M. Douglas, N. Fehrenbacher, R. C. Fields, A. R. Ganguly, J. Huang, L. Kaatz, N. Lin, D. Llewellyn, B. Lord, K. MacClune, R. Olsen, A. Pinson, T. Shi, and F. Vahedifard

Handout (5.7 MB)

The condition of a nation's infrastructure and its vulnerability or resilience to extreme weather and climate events is the foundation of its overall economic strength and position in the world. The systems described in this paper are all critical, without which higher-order activities such as markets, education, and health care are impossible. To maintain and build our society, we not only need to maintain current infrastructure functionality but improve upon it, taking into account the challenges of today and those posed by future population growth, development, and changes in our environment and climate.

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) commissioned a White Paper to assess the vulnerabilities, and their collective interdependencies, of various infrastructure sectors to short- and long-term impacts from climate change. Most infrastructure is vulnerable to the impacts of a changing climate as it is continuously exposed to outdoor conditions. The damage and failure that occurs when exposed to conditions outside its designed range has cascading impacts on community resilience and economies. Furthermore, knowing that America’s Infrastructure is in an increasingly vulnerable state and that funding for infrastructure investment is more strained than ever, makes it difficult for any single agency to bear the added costs of designing and building more climate-resilient infrastructure. Justifications to appropriate the necessary funds are also complicated as methods for evaluating the long-term financial benefits of resilient design are relatively nascent.

We present the case for prioritization and explore potential prioritization schemes from two perspectives: for individual sectors to focus adaptation efforts where they will have the most impact; and, for those with a broader remit to focus action where the longer-term consequences require advance action to prevent maladaptation.

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