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Preventing climate change is hard, preparing for it is easy

Preventing climate change is hard, preparing for it is easy

The infrastructure discussion has evolved (or devolved) into a debate about what that clunky four-syllable word means. Whatever it is, “crumbling” is the wrong way to describe it. The correct word is obsolete. The infrastructure we have reflects the climate and values of 1950. Instead of being rebuilt, it must be reimagined.

President Joe Biden’s ten-year, $2 trillion American Jobs Plan pledges that every dollar spent on rebuilding “will be used to prevent, reduce, and withstand the impacts of the climate crisis.” The plan also promises “$50 billion in dedicated investments to improve infrastructure resilience.”

This emphasis on withstanding impacts is exciting, because U.S. climate policy has been lopsided for a long time, focusing on preventing green-house gas emissions while doing very little to prepare for the extreme weather that is both coming and already here.

We are in for more bad weather and we need preparation

The effects of climate change have often been conflated with inadequate and short-sighted planning. The collapse of the Texas power grid in February—when a cold snap left millions of people without power for weeks, contributing to at least 40 deaths—was not a climate change problem. It was an infrastructure problem.

It’s easy to build structures that can withstand colder temperatures or larger storms or higher seas. It’s hard to convince people to do things differently, to stop driving cars or stop eating meat. And, to date, the latter approach hasn’t worked very well.

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