25% of all US infrastructure is at-risk because of climate-change related flooding: new report

25% of all US infrastructure is at-risk because of climate-change related flooding: new report
Texas National Guard soldiers arrive in Houston on August 27, 2017 to aid residents affected by Hurricane Harvey. (Texas Army National Guard photo)

If there were ever a compelling reason to support the infrastructure bill, it's a newly released report from First Street Foundation detailing the increased risks from flooding due to climate change for the lower 48 states and Washington, D.C. The nonprofit's third annual national risk assessment reveals that a quarter of critical U.S. infrastructure could be rendered inoperable from flooding. That includes hospitals, power stations, and wastewater treatment facilities.

The risk to critical infrastructure facilities is estimated to increase to "26% with a 6% increase in risk" by 2051, according to First Street Foundation's modeling. This very well could be a conservative estimate given the unprecedented position into which climate change has put us. This is after taking into account the suggestions put forth for how to combat the threat of supposed "100-year storms" that are becoming more frequent.

It's one of the reasons the Army Corps of Engineers doubled certain risk factors when fortifying the levee system that held exceedingly well during Hurricane Ida this year, which largely protected the New Orleans metropolitan area.

Inaction factored heavily into the devastating flooding in nearby LaPlace, Louisiana, where a $760 million levee project protecting St. John the Baptist Parish's east bank and parts of St. James and St. Charles parishes isn't expected to be completed until 2024. According to reporting from The Times-Picayune, the project was half a century in the making. Officials were sounding the alarm for greater flood protection in the wake of Hurricane Betsy all the way back in 1970.

Louisiana isn't the only state facing major risks from flooding: First Street Foundation's list of the 20 most at-risk counties includes areas in states as far from each other as California, Virginia, and Kentucky. Flooding is a nationwide problem and a multifaceted one, which the infrastructure bill aims to tackle through investments in reducing emissions, bolstering clean water availability, and revamping public transit.

The infrastructure bill also includes a nearly $50 billion in investment meant to strengthen protections against flooding and droughts, among other climate disasters. Flooding, however, remains at the top of the federal government's list. The Federal Emergency Management Agency classifies flooding as "our nation's most frequent and costly natural disaster," according to a fact sheet.

Those expenses will only get worse with inaction, as detailed in a study published by Nature last year. Each year that the U.S. fails to implement climate change mitigation, it faces a median increase in climate damage costs of $600 billion. It's too costly not to act with urgency.

The U.S. would be in a prime position to make a change in how it combats climate change if the infrastructure bill passes by the end of the month, as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is hoping. That momentum could even inspire other countries ahead of the upcoming COP26 conference in November. Urge lawmakers to make the right move and pass the infrastructure bill.

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