Coast-to-Coast Crises Waiting to Happen
When extreme weather knocked out power and water in Texas last week, it represented a profound warning for the rest of the country: The nation’s vital infrastructure remains fundamentally unprepared for the shocks of climate change.
The problem isn’t just underinvestment, experts said, but the assumption that it’s good enough to design and build infrastructure to meet the environmental conditions of the past. Climate change is upending that assumption.
What’s at stake: Everything that underpins modern life, including roads and railways, dams, drinking water and sewer systems, power plants, industrial waste sites and even our homes.
Quotable: “A lot of our infrastructure systems have a tipping point,” said Jennifer M. Jacobs, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of New Hampshire. “And the tipping point could be an inch.”
Biden’s Pick for Interior Dept. Embodies Partisan Chasm
President Biden’s choice for interior secretary, Representative Deb Haaland, faces confirmation hearings this week. She took questions on Capitol Hill on Tuesday and appeared before senators again on Wednesday.
No other Biden nominee to head a cabinet department has divided the political parties as sharply.
To her supporters, she embodies the hope of the Biden era, an activist second-term representative who, as a Native American, would break ground like no other member of the cabinet. Her detractors have zeroed in on her activism, especially her forthright denunciations of oil and gas exploration on public land. — Coral Davenport
A first for a Native American: If confirmed, Ms. Haaland, a citizen of Laguna Pueblo, one of 574 federally recognized tribes in the United States, would be the first American Indian to lead a cabinet department.
Why it matters: Ms. Haaland would head a department that, for much of the nation’s history, has mistreated and neglected Native Americans.
Your insurance costs may be going up, soon
Federal flood insurance premiums will have to quadruple for high-risk homes to meet the risks they already face, according to data issued this week by a group of academics and experts. And that’s just the beginning: Climate change will require a sevenfold increase by 2050, they estimated.
The new data could point to big jumps in flood insurance costs this year.
That’s a challenge for President Biden, who has promised to pursue a climate agenda guided by science and data but has also said he’s focused on addressing the economic concerns of middle-class households. — Christopher Flavelle
The bigger problem: Climate experts say higher costs are necessary to keep the flood program solvent, and also warn home buyers and local officials about the flood risks they face.
What to watch: New premiums, set to be announced on April 1, will indicate whether the Biden administration thinks flood-insurance reform is a battle worth fighting.
Also important this week:
And finally, we recommend:
When There’s No Heat: ‘You Need Wood, You Get Wood’
Community wood banks, like food banks, help people in need who might have to choose between “heating or eating,” as volunteers put it.
They also put to use a growing supply of wood felled by climate change — from trees killed by extreme weather and those killed by pests, both invasive species and native populations no longer constrained by the long deep freezes of another era.
“Lots of people are on the edge of poverty and cannot afford unexpected events: a tree falls on your house or the power is out and your pipes freeze,” said Jessica Leahy, a professor at the University of Maine’s School of Forest Resources. “Heating their homes becomes one of those things that is especially hard to cover.” — Marguerite Holloway
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