Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Unrealized Opportunity of Our Crumbling Infrastructure

The Union of Concerned Scientists recently released a report on the dangers that climate change pose to our cultural resources. The report is summarized here - History Under Water: Climate Change Imperils Historic, Cultural Sites

As an aside, the article reports that our National Parks have $11 billion dollars of deferred maintenance needs now, without even accounting for the resilience measures necessary to address the impacts of climate change. Our schools have $271 billion dollars of deferred maintenance just to get them back up to minimum standards. To actually modernize our schools would require $542 billion (source). Our drinking water infrastructure – $1 trillion+ (source). Our bridges -  $20.5 billion annually spent through 2028 (source). And the list goes on and on relative to our national infrastructure. Plus there’s over $500 billion dollars of work out there to improve building energy efficiency, representing $130 billion dollars of savings annually in energy costs (source). A vast untapped reserve of jobs and economic boost is out there and energy efficiency itself represents a major wedge for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. But we don’t seem to have the political will to do it. And in the meantime our infrastructure and cultural resources will continue to deteriorate, more rapidly with worsening climate change impacts, and with major ramifications to our safety, economy and national identity.


  1. Great point. Unfortunately, the party currently holding the national purse strings (the party I'm registered under) has a conservative faction that has painted all government spending as wasteful. There is either some cognitive dissonance going on, or these folks really believe "Why should I give money to the government, when I can hire someone to build it/refurbish it/provide the service for me and I can keep it to myself and my kind?"

  2. David, I think the last half of your last sentence gets to a key point for moving past the current grid lock - "... I can keep it to myself and my kind." How do we expand people's definition of who fits within "their kind?" I've written a bit on this elsewhere:
    Breaking Bread with the Other Side -
    Climate Change: Getting the "Message" and "Messenger" Right: (ignore the title given on the site).
    Linked In Discussion - Upscaling Small Group Methods that Encourage Prosocial Behavior: