Investment in our nation’s infrastructure is long overdue. Aging roads, bridges, and railways pose safety risks; inefficient buildings and industrial processes are wasting energy; the transportation sector overly relies on polluting fuel sources; out-of-date water systems are ill-equipped to meet public health standards; and the U.S. electric grid is largely unable to handle modern energy needs. Dilapidated infrastructure has simultaneously left communities vulnerable to extreme weather and the other effects of climate change.
At the same time, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the U.S. National Climate Assessment warn that climate change is not a distant threat—but one that has arrived and is afflicting communities through worsened hurricanes, megafires, flooding, heat waves, and other increasingly common severe weather events.
The 116th Congress has an important and meaningful opportunity to address our changing climate and to invest in our nation’s energy, industrial, transportation, water, and natural infrastructure systems alike to increase community safety and resilience, protect and recover wildlife, boost local economies and family-sustaining jobs, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in a technology-inclusive way. These investments will benefit every community in America and are a fiscally responsible insurance policy against costly extreme weather and climate effects. And, they provide a down payment on the low-carbon economy of the future.
The National Wildlife Federation emphasizes three major opportunities to improve resilience and reduce emissions significantly through an infrastructure policy:
1) Create resilient communities and ecosystems by protecting and restoring natural infrastructure.
While healthy ecosystems may not typically be considered “infrastructure,” these resources can protect people and property from future climate impacts while providing invaluable carbon sequestration benefits.
Natural infrastructure consists of natural or nature-based systems that provide essential services and benefits to society. Such systems can be natural ecosystems, like forests, floodplains, beaches, and grasslands, or they can be engineered systems that use natural materials and are designed to emulate the functioning of natural ecosystems.
Investment in natural infrastructure can:
Climate resilience is defined as the ability of a system (either natural or human) to withstand, adapt to, or recover from the accelerating impacts of climate change, such as sea-level rise, flooding, drought, megafires, and more severe hurricanes.
2) Build a clean and resilient grid with:
3) Deploy a smart transportation system by:
Effectively addressing our infrastructure crisis requires maintaining the full suite of protections provided by the nation’s environmental laws, while improving equitable access to their benefits and ensuring the health and safety of the most vulnerable people and communities. Projects built with public resources should embrace Buy America standards and ensure family-sustaining wages and safe working conditions for our workers, and make a robust investment in workforce education and job training.
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