Friday, August 16, 2019

How Climate Change is Damaging our Roadways

Bad weather certainly can damage roads but whether such weather is now more frequent has been widely disputed

The growing number of flooding and wildfire events, coupled with increasing temperatures, is causing concern for the lifecycle of our highways and bridges

Since 1950, the number of record high temperature events in the United States has been increasing, while the number of record low temperature events has been decreasing. The U.S. has also witnessed increasing numbers of intense rainfall events along with disastrous wildfires, both of which are causing scientists concern for our nation's roads and bridges.

Infrastructure networks are the backbone of cities. Ensuring their resilience has become a vital aspect of governing and managing an economically viable and liveable city, but climate change is having a large impact on them. Today's roads and bridges have largely been designed and operated for historical climate conditions that are regularly exceeded and these extreme weather events are only making matters worse.


Flooding is the most common and costly natural disaster in the United States, causing more than $830 billion in estimated losses since 2000. In addition to private property damage, deluges from hurricanes and other storms have washed out roads and bridges and flooded schools, hospitals and utilities. Events like the flooding of Interstate 10 in Phoenix in 2014, the Riverside County I-10 bridge washout in 2015 and Hurricanes Harvey and Maria in 2017 have revealed how vulnerable our transportation system can be to extreme flooding events.

Damages to roads and bridges caused by recent storms and flooding over the first half of 2019 are among the costliest in recent memory. Since January, FHWA officials directed $54.9 million in quick release funds to help states repair roads and bridges nationwide -- roughly three times higher than the $19.8 million awarded during the same period last year.

Climatic and extreme weather conditions affect the roadway infrastructure in a variety of ways and may increase exposure of roads, bridges and rails to environmental factors beyond original design considerations.

Storm Damage to Infrastructure Already Exceeds $1B in First Half of 2019


Recently, the California Department of Transportation (CALTRANS) has released new reports on the negative effects of climate change on the state’s highway system and infrastructure.

The reports, known as Climate Change Vulnerability Assessments, highlighted areas in Northern California and the Central Valley heavily impacted by extreme temperatures and frequent wildfires in recent years. The reports say extreme weather events association with climate change are already disrupting and damaging the state’s roadway infrastructure and has potential for more severe impacts in the future.

A previous vulnerability report conducted for the San Francisco Bay Area highlighted areas vulnerable to wildfire – combined with the resulting land erosion and flooding from storms – along with higher precipitation, sea level rise and storm surges.

That report showed that the 2016-2017 storm season caused severe flooding, landslides and coastal erosion totaling over $1.2 billion in highway damages statewide. Nearly $390 million of those damages occurred in the Bay Area.

Freeze/Thaw Cycles

A freeze thaw cycle occurs many times a year in northern climates and roadways are typically designed to withstand those changes.  These cycles happen when moisture falls through the cracks in the road during the winter and moisture is frozen in place. When water is frozen, it expands and that causes the cracks in the pavement to grow larger. This cycle continues to repeat throughout winter, with the water being re-thawed sinking further under the road, then re-freezing and causing the cracks to expand even further.

However, as temperatures fluctuate to extremes due to climate change, the impact on our roadways becomes more severe. This calls for a paradigm shift in the approach generally followed for designing pavements.

How Changing Climate is Impacting the Construction Industry
In the highway environment, the factors of climate, soil, water, pavement structure and traffic are known to interact in freezing and thawing situations to the detriment of pavements. The exact nature of the physical processes that take place and the pavement response to freezing action are not well understood and more research is needed to combat these impacts to our infrastructure.

Solution: Resilient Infrastructure Planning
The recently introduced America’s Transportation Infrastructure Act authorizes $287 billion over five years from the Highway Trust Fund to maintain and repair road and bridge infrastructure across the country. It also includes language and the funding means to address the impacts of climate change and extreme weather events on our roads.

What really our future really needs is resilience. According to World Bank, there is a significant economic opportunity from investing in resilient infrastructure: the overall net benefit of doing so in developing countries would be $4.2 trillion over the lifetime of new infrastructure.

The U.S. continues to spend slightly more than one trillion dollars of buildings and infrastructure a year (according 2017 statistics) designed based on codes and standards that do not explicitly account for a changing climate. The impact of which could be felt for decades.

US Infrastructure Unprepared to Face the Storms
Congress must require that infrastructure investments consider future risks for all aspects of climate change.

By implementing stronger flood safeguards across the federal government, states can limit damage, reduce the need to rebuild after floods and potentially save billions of dollars in the face of these increasing costly storms. That coupled with designing roadways that can better withstand extreme heat and cold will deliver opportunities to extend the life cycle of these expensive assets.


Expensive climate change programs hurt the poor most

A new study confirms what conservatives have long suspected: Expensive climate change programs, such as the Green New Deal, would hurt the poor the most.

Researchers from the Euro-Mediterranean Center for Climate Change estimate that if every country participating in the Paris climate accord actually fulfilled its greenhouse gas emission reduction pledges, more than 3 million people will be pushed into poverty. That’s on top of the 1 billion people around the world who still don’t have electricity or any of the benefits that come with it — like clean running water, refrigeration, modern medical care, and home heating.

Reliable, affordable energy has the power to lift people from poverty. Making that energy less accessible is a disservice to both the less fortunate and to the environment.

History has shown that economic prosperity and environmental quality go hand in hand. Though the environmentalist Left loves to hate fossil fuels, our air and water are cleaner than ever because of them. The EPA’s six key airborne pollutants, including lead and ozone, are down 74% since 1970 — the cleanest on record. Scientific advancements, fueled by affordable energy and a thriving free market, have made our businesses more efficient and improved environmental technology.

Meanwhile, the green groups’ claims that fighting climate change equals fighting economic inequality doesn’t hold weight.

Though it’s impossible to truly quantify the cost of a proposal as expansive and vague as the Green New Deal, one new report estimates that implementing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s pièce de résistance will cost up to $100,000 per household in the first year alone. That $100,000 isn’t the government’s money; it comes from the taxpayers who will also feel the strain on their wallets from higher electricity and fuel costs.

No country, state, or city has ever achieved 100% renewable energy, or even close, and costs have invariably gone up under programs attempting to force a switch to wind and solar. Paying more for energy doesn’t just mean a higher utility bill — those costs also balloon the price of essentially every transaction we could ever make. Living a safe, healthy, and comfortable life requires electricity, as does running a business.

When polled about climate change, Americans consistently say they aren’t willing to pay more to stave off the supposed watery doomsday on the horizon. An AP poll found that well over two-thirds of Americans wouldn’t consider paying just $10 more a month on their electricity bills. An even more damning poll in San Antonio, one of over 400 cities pledging to implement their own versions of the Paris accords, revealed more than half aren’t willing to pay a single penny.

It’s not that Americans don’t care about the environment; despite this poll data, climate change consistently ranks as a major policy concern. They recognize the costs simply aren’t worth strangling our economy and our quality of life.

The global reductions in greenhouse gas emissions proposed by the Paris Climate Accord, however unrealistic, are projected to reduce the temperature in 2100 by at most 0.17°. If we stop the temperature from rising two tenths of a degree but subject millions more people to poverty, will it have been worth it?

Protecting and preserving our natural environment should be a priority. But raging against climate change at the expense of human lives is no more than a pyrrhic victory.

The widespread adoption of fossil fuels coincides with the most rapid improvements in quality of life in recorded history, including life expectancy, hunger, education, infant mortality, child labor, economic freedom, gross domestic product, and more. The best path forward is to allow America to continue embracing our abundant, reliable, affordable energy to lift people here and abroad from poverty.

Politicians who claim their expensive environmental programs will solve economic injustice should take another look at the numbers.


3 Ways Trump’s New Regulations Will Better Protect Endangered Species

The Trump administration has just taken an important step in the effort to protect threatened and endangered species.

On Monday, the administration published final regulations that will improve implementation of the Endangered Species Act.

This law simply hasn’t worked. Over the law’s more than 45 years, only about 3% of the species listed as threatened or endangered have been removed from the list due to recovery.

To their credit, the Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service decided to take action. They recognized that a significant part of the problem is connected to how they have implemented the law.

Here are three of their important changes.

1. No longer treating threatened species as if they were endangered.

The Endangered Species Act applies its most significant protections to species classified as “endangered,” including very stringent prohibitions against activities that would harm species or their habitats. This includes severe restrictions on how private property owners can use their land.

But for threatened species, the Endangered Species Act’s general rule is that these stringent prohibitions don’t apply.

Unfortunately, the Fish and Wildlife Service has implemented the law in the exact opposite fashion: The general rule is that these prohibitions do apply to threatened species.

This misguided approach hurts conservation efforts by diverting time and resources away from where they are most needed. It also removes important incentives for private property owners. For example, if the stringent prohibitions didn’t apply to threatened species, private property owners would have the incentive to protect these species from becoming endangered in order to avoid these stringent prohibitions.

Fortunately, the final regulations would require the Fish and Wildlife Service to properly follow the law and treat endangered and threatened species differently from each other. This would be consistent with what Congress intended and follows what the National Marine Fisheries Service has been doing successfully for years.

This change would have no impact on threatened species that have already been listed. This only applies to future listed species.

2. Promoting much-needed transparency.

The Endangered Species Act requires that science alone should determine whether to list a species. The costs of protecting a species has nothing to do with whether it is endangered or threatened.

However, the federal government has used this science-only requirement as an excuse to prohibit the identification of the benefits and costs of listing a species.

Based on the final regulations, the federal government would still make listing decisions without considering costs, but would start to identify and communicate the impacts of these listing decisions.

There is nothing novel about informing the public about cost data that isn’t used in agency decision-making. This is exactly what the Environmental Protection Agency does when designating the National Ambient Air Quality Standards.

When legislators and the public know what the actual costs and benefits are for conserving species, they can better understand the Endangered Species Act and how existing law might be changed to achieve desired policy outcomes.

3. Stopping critical habitat designations that don’t help to conserve species.

Under the Endangered Species Act, the federal government designates critical habitat for listed species, which may include areas that are not occupied by the species. These unoccupied areas, however, must be essential to the conservation of the species.

The new final regulations would help to ensure any unoccupied areas are truly essential, and therefore help to prevent extreme situations, such as what happened in Louisiana.

In that case, the Fish and Wildlife Service determined that 1,544 acres of land in Louisiana was “critical habitat” for an endangered species known as the dusky gopher frog. This was despite the fact the dusky gopher frog has not been seen in Louisiana in over 50 years and couldn’t even survive on the property.

As the Pacific Legal Foundation’s Mark Miller, who represented the property owners in the case, recently stated, “The feds may as well have labeled this Louisiana property critical habitat for a polar bear. It would have done just as much good.”


The administration’s new final regulations are designed to better protect species. They may pose a problem for those who are more interested in blocking development than the welfare of threatened and endangered species. For those though who want to improve recovery efforts, these regulations are an important step forward.


EPA right to grant waivers to refiners under Renewable Fuel Standard

Americans for Limited Government President Rick Manning today issued the following statement praising the EPA for granting waivers to distressed oil refiners under the Renewable Fuel Standard:

“The Environmental Protection Agency is right to grant waivers to a limited number of distressed small U.S. oil refiners from the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS.)  The RFS requires all refiners to blend biofuels like ethanol into gasoline or purchase credits from others that do in order to remain in business.  While these waivers might disappoint the corn lobby which would rather bankrupt small refiners through the cost of credits than give an inch in their demand for fealty to ethanol, the EPA’s waiver decision balances the mistaken federal government policy to promote burning corn in our automobile engines with the financial needs of refiners who foot the cost of adding corn to superior performing oil in making gasoline.”



Three current articles below

Australian radio jock blasts 'clown' New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern for lecturing Australia's PM on climate change

During the Pacific Islands Forum in Tuvalu - an independent island nation in the South Pacific - Ardern warned that the Morrison Government 'will have to answer to the Pacific' on global warming.

Morrison is under pressure from the 18 members of the forum to sign a statement which calls for the world to quickly stop using coal to fight global warming.

But the 2GB radio host urged Mr Morrison to fire back at New Zealand's leader, branding her a 'complete clown' after she pledged her nation would have a carbon neutral economy by 2015.

'She is a joke this woman, an absolute and utter light-weight. These people are an absolute joke and Jacinda Ardern is the biggest joke.'

This morning, Jones said of Ardern: 'Here she is preaching on global warming and saying that we've got to do something about climate change.

'If you want to talk about the figures… the fact is New Zealand's carbon dioxide has grown by 10.8 per cent per capita since 1990. Ours has grown by 1.8 per cent.' 

Many of Jones's listeners on Facebook were on board with his comments called Ms Ardern a 'lightweight'.

One fan said: 'Couldn’t agree more with Alan Jones. Tell it like it is. NZ must DUMP Ardern ASAP before the country loses all credibility.'

Jones doubled down on his position on climate change on Facebook, going on to accuse Ms Ardern of excluding agriculture and methane from her calculations, because they 'contribute half of New Zealand's greenhouse gas emissions.'

'When it comes to fossil fuel power generation, coal, oil, gas, biomass - which is dirtier than Australian black coal - New Zealand gets 67.2 per cent; we get 84.8,' Jones said.

'But when it comes to wind and solar which she's in love with, we get 12.1 per cent, New Zealand 0.93 per cent.'

Jones claimed neither Australia or New Zealand slashing emissions would stop climate change. 

'The point is, no matter what either of us does, there will be no impact,' he said.

Ardern said New Zealand was committed to helping ensure the global temperature increase was kept to 1.5 degrees.

In Tuvalu on Wednesday, Morrison vouched that Australia would be a 'champion' for the environment in the Pacific.

However, reports have claimed the country's negotiators are working to water down an official communique about climate change. 


NZ Foreign Minister walks back Jacinda Ardern’s carbon challenge

Ardern depends on the support of Peters to stay in office so she will have to listen to his realistic comments and tone down her virtue signalling

NZ Foreign Minister Winston Peters has walked back his prime minister’s challenge to Scott Morrison to explain Australia’s position on climate change, saying Pacific nations need to look at the “big picture”, including China’s massive coal-fired economy.

The NZ deputy PM told ABC radio this morning that calls for Australia to “step-up” on climate change were a “bit of a paradox” as many Pacific countries were seeking cheap loans from China “on the back of coal-fired everything”.

Mr Peters’ comments came after PM Jacinda Ardern said every nation needed to “do its bit” to fight climate change, and “Australia has to answer to the Pacific” for its own emissions policies.

“There’s a big picture we have to contemplate where we have to ensure that when we act in this big picture, we act with consistency and integrity,” Mr Peters said.

The Foreign Minister acknowledged that the island nations were desperately concerned about their long-term longevity, but said China’s emissions also needed to be factored into the discussion.

“You need to look at everybody, not just Australia, but also who is getting that coal and what things they are doing with it.”

He encouraged Pacific Islands Forum leaders meeting in Tuvalu to “look at all the details”, and downplayed concerns Mr Morrison was out of step with his counterparts.

In conciliatory comments after Ms Ardern said Australia would be held accountable by the Pacific for its emissions policies, Mr Peters said he was “slightly worried” there was an outward perception Mr Morrison was “somehow acting incorrectly” when that wasn’t the “real picture at all.”

PIF leaders this morning went into a retreat to negotiate the final wording of the Fanufuti Declaration, which small island states want to include a strong statement about transitioning away from coal, limiting temperatures to 1.5 degrees, and replenishing the UN’s Green Climate Fund.

Mr Morrison, who is pushing back against all three demands while simultaneously defending his “Pacific step-up”, told counterparts the nation’s “coal dependency has been falling”, and “record renewables investments” was underway across Australia.

It’s understood he will contrast China’s environmental performance, including its massive reliance on coal-fired power, to that of Australia.

China has 981,000MW of installed coal generation capacity, compared to Australia’s 25,150MW.

Mr Morrison has committed an extra $500 million this week to Pacific climate change resilience projects, on top of $300 million announced by the Turnbull government.

Ms Ardern today announced she would set aside $150m of New Zealand’s $300m global climate change development assistance to the Pacific, but did not provide additional funding.

When asked whether Australia was at risk of alienating Pacific nations because of its climate change stance, Mr Peters said the island countries should remember Australia has been a “great neighbour” to the Pacific. “They should remember who has been their long term and short term friends,” he said.


Easy for NZ PM to point the finger at Australian climate policy

Demanding Australia abandon its coal production and exports for the good of the climate in the ­Pacific is akin to asking New Zealan­d to give up its love affair with sheep.

New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is naive if she believe­s such moves would be economically feasible or in the best interests of regional stability.

New Zealand under Ardern may be a poster child at this week’s Pacific Islands Forum for setting a 2050 ambition for her country’s carbon neutrality.

But it has only been possible because less than 20 per cent of New Zealand’s electricity comes from fossil fuels and its biggest source of emissions, agriculture, has been given a free pass.

Most New Zealand power comes from hydro, geothermal and, increasingly, wind.

In terms of historic performance, New Zealand just scraped through the first Kyoto round of emissions cuts and failed to sign up to a legally binding target for the second. New Zealand parted company with Europe and Aust­ralia and instead joined Japan, Canada and Russia in a non-binding commitment for 2020.

In 2015, after barely securing a surplus in credits for Kyoto’s first ­period, New Zealand said it would apply the 123.7 million unit excess to its non-binding 2020 emissions reduction target — something it now criticises Australia for wanting to do with the Paris Agreement. Greenhouse gas emissions figures are notoriously difficult to compare because of different treatments of land-use contributions. But without taking these into account it is clear that ­Australia’s challenge is 10 times bigger than that of New Zealand.

Figures compiled by the European Commission show Australia’s emissions without land use rose to 402 million tonnes in 2017, up from 275 million in 1990. New Zealand’s comparative emissions were 36.8 million tonnes in 2017, up from 24 million tonnes in 1990.

For perspective, China’s emissions were 10.9 billion tonnes.

The UN Green Climate Fund is another case in point. Australia gave the body $200 million between 2015 and last year but has pulled out after a meltdown in governance and confidence.

Climate groups are asking Australia to up its contribution to $400m a year. But Scott Morrison has made clear he would prefer to ­direct spending through the ­Pacific region.

New Zealand’s contribution to the Green Climate Fund was a tiny $3m by comparison, but Aust­ralia’s $500m contribution to regional projects, through a partia­l rebadging of foreign aid, did not win it any points.

The hard fact for Australia is that Pacific neighbours represent a potent force in the geopolitics of global climate change negotiations and enjoy a close alliance with non-government groups.

WWF said Australia’s $500m in Pacific funding must be accompanied by a plan to reach net zero emissions by 2050. This means ­reducing domestic emissions by 45 per cent on 2005 levels by 2030 and phasing out thermal coal export­s by the same year.

Including a ban on coal ­exports, the nation’s biggest export­ earner, would make the challenge all the more difficult for Australia. As a result, Australia’s strategic ambitions in the Pacific region more broadly have been caught up in other concerns.



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