The ongoing tragedy in Texas is yet another wakeup call to the nation that the climate risk to our infrastructure has become unmanageable, and the consequences can be catastrophic.
For years, Urbint has seen that to anticipate threats to infrastructure, it’s necessary to take dynamic environmental data into account. Increasingly frequent severe storms, multiple freeze-thaw events, and shifting soil conditions are just a few examples of real-world events that increase the risk of infrastructure failing and prove to us that we cannot solely rely on static historical data as conditions on and below the ground change.
The critical energy and water infrastructure that makes society work was designed using certain assumptions about the variability and severity of weather and the environment. As we saw in Texas, these assumptions are no longer true.
Current infrastructure initiatives are primarily focused on slowing the pace of climate change by reducing emissions. While these efforts are vital, climate change is already here, and there needs to also be a significant focus on how to mitigate the risk facing the existing infrastructure our lives depend on today.
If we don’t take meaningful action, catastrophes like what we’re seeing in Texas will continue to happen all over the country. To adequately address this challenge requires massive federal and state action, including:
- Investment in infrastructure resilience: The federal government needs to introduce legislation to increase funding for hardening the nation’s energy and water infrastructure to withstand climate threats, and include baseline resilience standards for all new projects.
- Climate adaptation plans: State legislators and regulators need to instruct utilities and infrastructure operators to develop adaptation plans that account for extreme conditions caused by climate change.
- Infrastructure Resilience Advisory Council: The federal government should convene experts from the technology, energy, scientific, environmental advocacy, and government sectors to find new solutions to these pressing problems.
Our hearts go out to the millions of people impacted by the disaster in Texas. With the right planning, policies, and technology, we can reduce the impact of these events in the future.