By Mary Scott Nabers
Over the last 10 years, wildfires and extreme weather events such as heat waves, floods, droughts, and hurricanes cost America more than $350 billion, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office. And these costs don’t include three major hurricanes and wildfires that devastated parts of the country last year. That data has not been recorded yet. Billions more in rebuilding and relief funds will be distributed because of those events.
Resiliency and sustainability are no longer simply “options” for state and local government leaders. Climate change has mandated that all government entities become proactive, not reactive, in how they deal with floods, wildfires, droughts, and other disasters that are occurring more frequently and are becoming larger in scope.
Government subdivisions are aware of the need for projects designed to mitigate such damages, but lean budgets prevent most from taking any action. Sadly, delaying these projects will cost taxpayers far more.
Last June, President Trump withdrew the U.S. from the Paris Agreement on climate change, a program that focused on decreasing carbon emissions across the globe. Almost immediately nearly 20 governors and officials in 125 cities in the U.S. pledged to continue their efforts to meet or exceed the goals of the Paris Agreement. Others have since joined this effort.
New York City has earmarked billions of dollars for retrofitting one million buildings for energy efficiency. Other plans include switching the city’s fleet of vehicles to electric power and putting more solar panels on rooftops.
The Houston Gulf Coast is still recovering from billions of dollars in damages as a result of an unbelievable 60 inches of rain dropped by Hurricane Harvey. Researchers say that climate change caused the rainfall from Harvey to be 15 to 38 percent greater than it would have been otherwise. City and county leaders are discussing how to mitigate future weather-related events because the same researchers predict that climate change will likely only intensify the size, duration, and intensity of future storms.
San Francisco has already surpassed its goal to reduce 1990 greenhouse gas emissions levels 25 percent by 2017. The city hit a 28 percent reduction by 2015 and is now seeking to reduce those emissions 40 percent by 2025 and 80 percent by 2050. City leaders don’t intend to slow down on their clean air efforts.
No stranger to rising sea levels and flood waters inundating parts of the city, Miami Beach has aggressively launched projects to protect its citizens, infrastructure, and environment. City officials have invested hundreds of millions of dollars to elevate many susceptible miles of roadways, install new pump stations, and upgrade drainage utilities.
Oakland, CA, is preparing now for future earthquakes. City leadership announced that plans are underway to retrofit buildings and reinforce infrastructure to withstand anticipated earthquakes. The city is also creating more parks and open spaces as part of its “green” infrastructure plan to help mitigate storm water damage.
Alaska’s state leadership has appointed a task force to propose emission reduction policies as the state discusses ways to cut state emissions by 2025. A tax imposed on companies that emit carbon dioxide is a definite possibility.
Sustainability and resiliency projects are high priorities for most state and local government leaders. Since the federal government stepped away from the Paris Agreement, most parts of the country have not slowed down sustainability efforts. If this continues, taxpayers will benefit, people will be healthier, and property may be salvaged.
Mary Scott Nabers is president and CEO of Strategic Partnerships Inc., a business development company specializing in government contracting and procurement consulting throughout the U.S. Her recently released book, Inside the Infrastructure Revolution: A Roadmap for Building America, is a handbook for contractors, investors, and the public at large seeking to explore how public-private partnerships or joint ventures can help finance their infrastructure projects.
Image credit: "France, Paris : Bords de Seine," (vincent desjardins) © 2012, used under an Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/