Climate Change Adaptation: Businesses Already On Point; Is Government Capable Of Long-Range Planning And Budgeting?
Adapting to climate change is a slow, largely reactive, process in the USA - and likely to stay that way where public works are involved.
Businesses Adapt Reactively, By Managing Investment Risk
Businesses are no doubt already doing it: "should we re-invest in a place that gets smashed by a hurricane every few years?" For capital-intensive industries, especially - I'm talking mainly about factories with expensive machinery and non-portable, non-outsourced technology - this is a serious driver for investment decisions. Add the layer of US capital markets being severely strained by a growing banking crisis, and you can see the criticality of business decisions.
For Farmland, Abandonment Is The Ultimate Choice
Crop acreage that is repeatedly flooded, or which is projected to be flooded permanently, will eventually revert to nature. Subsidies can prop up a risky continuance for a few years; but, eventually, the wet acres go. Now would be a good time to think strategically about such matters, as has a multidisciplinary research team in California."A new multidisciplinary modeling effort concludes that certain tracts of land in California's Sacramento Delta should be abandoned the next time they flood, and that major California water-supply inlets in the area should be rerouted. The study indicates the kind of land-preservation and infrastructure triage that will become increasingly necessary in the face of rising sea levels and climate change." Via::Technology Review, Amid rising seas, a California modeling effort recommends abandoning land tracts in the Sacramento Delta.
Governmental Planning For Public Works - A Nexus Of Adaptation
As in the California example cited, a complete redo of the water supply infrastructure might well be needed in many areas of the USA. That means Federal and state Governments must have a strong hand in climate change adaptation. That means central planning and long range budgeting and administration of enormous public works projects.
What other climate change scenarios are there where government would have to play the dominant hand?
Great Lakes become so shallow that the shipping and some water supply intakes become compromised. Here are three fairly obvious ones.
In drought threatened areas such as Atlanta and the US West, population growth continues to outstrip what natural water sources can reliably provide over the long term.
Coastal city sewer and water systems become inoperable, as a function of being located along river banks that will be tidally inundated long before actual city buildings and suburbs get flooded from sea rise, become inoperable.
Given the dominant political philosophy of US Federal government for the last 20 years having been one wanting 'less government;' and, given the budgetary imbalance caused by oil import dependence and war, it seems inconceivable that long range planning for public works adaptation to climate change will be initiated by the Federal Government. Unless there is a sea-change in philosophy - to one that would be closer to the approach of the New Deal era - the investment planning is just not going to happen at the needed scale.
Universities are where the planning will begin. Eventually, we hope, USEPA and various other state and Federal agencies will be drawn in.
Image credit::Hurricane Floyd flooded municipal sewerage plant in North Carolina
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