Building Climate Resilient Infrastructure – Critical Issues and Resolutions

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climate change resilience infrastructure
A home in Gilchrist, Texas, designed to resist flood waters survived Hurricane Ike in 2008. (Photo courtesy of FEMA/Joselyne Augustino)

Infrastructure provides social and economic services to the community. Damages due to climatic events will result in the disruption of activities and confusion in any society.  

It is projected that infrastructures will have an economic service life of 30 years with climate variations and extremes considered in its design, the paper “Addressing Critical Issues for Building Climate Resilient Infrastructure” by Riya Rahiman posits.

The paper mentions that it is important to include climate risks in the budget as investments to infrastructures in the next 15 years are estimated at US$90 trillion. Successful implementation of climate-resilient infrastructures requires adequate finance, enabling environment, and technical solutions.

What are the critical issues?

As with any undertaking, especially as important as meeting climate change impacts, there are challenges that need to be addressed.

Extreme weather events such as storms, cyclones, and flooding can damage and disrupt service of infrastructures like roads, power, and telecommunications.

Rahiman presents that existing infrastructures were built using past historic climate data and patterns, and because these climatic events are predicted to increase in intensity due to climate change, there is a need for new methods and strategies to account for the changing climate scenarios.

To address this, there is a need for more climate-related information to be used in the design and adaptation measures, a need for policies that mainstream climate change into all aspects of infrastructure management and development.

The World Bank has estimated adaptation costs to be between $70 to $100 billion a year for a 2-degree increase in global temperature. A big chunk of this budget will go to infrastructure spending.  

A study by the Pacific Region Infrastructure Facility demonstrates that it makes good economic sense to invest in resilience and climate-proofing infrastructure. The study states that a dollar of preventative measure is equal to $5 of repair. As the saying goes, prevention is better than cure, and this also applies to infrastructure management when dealing with climate change.

Proposed resolutions

To ensure economic and societal growth and well-being, investments in resilient infrastructure that will adapt to the changing climate is crucial.

Development of resilient infrastructures involves many sectors, from private citizens and organizations to the government sectors that covers financing, engineering, management and planning, enabling environment through policies and regulations.

To achieve the goal of investing in climate-resilient infrastructure, 3 proposals are made.

First, climate change should be mainstreamed in planning and designing infrastructure. Current construction and maintenance practices do not accommodate climate change, there is a need to update climate thresholds and design parameters to account for climate variability and extremes.

Second, climate change should be integrated into the planning and approval processes for infrastructure asset management development. There should also be improved access to climate risk information and more informed policy formulation.

Third, investment in resilience and climate-proofing should be included in the planning and design of infrastructures. There should be policies in place to prioritize bids that includes climate-proofing infrastructures and finance mechanisms that incentivise these practices.

Also, the availability of risk transfers mechanisms or climate risks insurance to protect the public and private citizens for financial losses due to climate change disasters and hazards are important.

Read the full research paper by Riya Rahiman here:

PHOTO CREDIT: By FEMA/Joselyne Augustino) – https://share.sandia.gov/news/resources/news_releases/images/2013/fema.jpg, Public Domain, Link

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