Investing in Climate-Resilient Infrastructure Minimizes Future Disaster Costs

Need to convince your friends that investing in climate change resilience is worth it? Why not appeal to their wallets? As it turns out, spending money in this arena generates big returns.

Putting out one dollar’s worth of federal grant money on improving and refining infrastructure for resilience in a changing climate generates six dollars worth of returns – and that’s a pretty good deal.

This study specifically examined housing retrofits, including modifying roofs and shutters, clearing vegetation and implementing other fairly low-cost changes to improve climate resilience.

Climate change resilience is emerging as an especially important field for people interested in developing, maintaining and reinforcing infrastructure — the roads, bridges, utility lines and more that help us function. Flooding, fires, drought, heavy storms and other weather events linked to climate change can wreak havoc on infrastructure, causing billions of dollars worth of damages and hardships. Hurricane recovery in Puerto Rico, where some areas still don’t have power, highlights the seriousness of this problem.

Making infrastructure improvements like elevating housing, burying power lines and reinforcing bridges costs a lot of money — and generates some local jobs along the way. But there are benefits beyond a temporary local economic boost. Preventing casualties and property damage in the billions is definitely a big plus. It also limits loss or interruption of services from power to 911 call centers, reduces the burden on insurance companies and keeps businesses up and running even in tough conditions.

If you knew there was a costly but very effective way to insulate your community from potentially catastrophic loss of life and billions in incidental costs, wouldn’t you go for it? I sure would.

This is an especially timely conversation to have in light of Trump’s recent promise of $1.7 trillion in infrastructure spending. Like many of the administration’s lofty promises, this one may be forgotten, radically scaled-down or doled out primarily to supporters. And that would be unfortunate, because the United States desperately needs to invest heavily in infrastructure –and it’s a bipartisan issue.

In many parts of the country, existing infrastructure isn’t meeting demand, and in some cases it’s in such terrible condition that communities are facing a near-future need for replacement or radical renovations. This problem is even more grave in communities vulnerable to climate change. It’s much easier to schedule thoughtfully planned construction to address these deficits than it is to scramble in the aftermath of disaster.

Sadly, the grant programs addressed in this study are under threat, as the GOP is moving to repeal or radically curtail many similar government programs. When federal investment so directly benefits whole communities — not just property owners who take advantage of these grants — that’s a compelling argument to keep spending. But if you don’t think climate change is real, then maybe tossing grant money at resilience seems like a losing proposition.

Photo credit: Garry Knight

44 comments

Dan Blossfeld
Dan Blossfeld11 days ago

Brian F.,
Agreed. Hurricanes have caused more more destruction recently, not because of their frequency or intensity, but because people are building in areas with high probabilities of strikes. In the past, people avoided these areas, because of the risks.

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Patty L
Patty Langford11 days ago

great ideas for when we pass 45. tyfs

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Ch B
Ch B13 days ago

Taking action now avoids catastrophe in the future and will cost less. There is no down side to investing in what is really clean and renewable energy. This is where the new jobs will be and investing now keeps us in the game. Turning our backs lets other countries get the upper hand on these technologies and we may never catch up.

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Ruth S
Ruth S13 days ago

Thanks.

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Winn A
Winn A13 days ago

Thanks

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Winn A
Winn A13 days ago

Petition Signed

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Shirley S
Shirley S13 days ago

In agreement.

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Brian F
Brian F13 days ago

I think not building in flood zones and returning those areas to green space would be the best option. Houston got flooded because they built in areas that they never should have built in.

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Cathy B
Cathy B13 days ago

Thank you for posting.

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Daniela M
Daniela M13 days ago

Absolutely. It's the only logical thing to do. Ty.

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