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Monday, June 16, 2008

Crumbling Foundations

This recent article on the declining state of U.S. urban infrastructure would seem to raise some significant concerns regarding the nation's preparedness with respect to climate change and adaptation. While the American Society of Engineers suggests that the U.S. will need 1.6 trillion and five years to bring its infrastructure up-to-date, some mayors attribute the decline in infrastructure to the practice of Congressional earmarking, which provides local projects in the absence of national prioritisation and investment.

If the built environment of the U.S. is rotten at its core, perhaps the oft-cited high adaptive capacity of the U.S. (and other developed nations) is over-rated. Massive investments will be needed over the coming decades just to maintain the status quo, much less prepare for climate change. On the other hand, the retirement of aging infrastructure may also provide opportunities for mainstreaming consideration for climate change into the design of new infrastructure. The fact that the high costs of infrastructure upkeep have to date largely deterred needed investments, however, suggests anticipatory strategic planning for the adaptation of infrastructure may be wishful thinking.

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