Study: Climate Change Damaging Region's Infrastructure
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A new study from the Midwest Economic Policy Institute warns that climate change impacts could wreak havoc on transportation and infrastructure systems across the region.
Study author Mary Craighead said policymakers need to understand the potential costs and consequences of climate change, and added they need to be proactive to protect communities and the economy. According to the report, the average air temperature has increased by more than 4 degrees since the 1980s, and there's been a 27 percent increase in the number of days of very heavy rain since the '50s.
"The higher temperatures and the stronger storms can reduce the lifespan of roads, bridges,” Craighead said. "They can cause railways to buckle. Flooding, obviously, is a huge issue that can impact the flow of traffic, the flow of freight, which can impact our economy."
Craighead said flooding will be a key issue.
She pointed out there has been an increase in power outages, adding that the Midwest is a net distributor of electricity to other regions. Floods, high winds, ice, snow and storms can damage facilities and above-ground transmission lines.
The study said national infrastructure needs are expected to top $2 trillion by 2025. It noted the state departments of transportation in Illinois, Michigan, Ohio and Minnesota have all pursued asset management programs to address climate change and assess vulnerabilities.
The report recommended limiting development in low-lying areas that already have experienced storm related damage, and updating heat and rainfall standards used in the project design process.
"It's just going to keep getting worse,” Craighead said. “So it's time we really need to stop debating it and start actually taking action and planning for it in the future so we don't have to deal with the ramifications after the fact, we can actually plan for it ahead of time."
Climate change deniers say such concerns are misplaced or exaggerated, but the consensus among scientists is that climate change is real and will have significant impacts.