Thursday, July 26, 2012


Heat, drought and fire.  Apart from the suffering, illnesses and death, the consequences mount up.  Forecasts of higher food prices--even significantly higher prices--by fall have led to speculation (unfortunately in both senses) on the human as well as economic consequences.

The consequences on infrastructure are already been felt, including some that were simply not foreseen.  The New York Times article on this subject begins: "From highways in Texas to nuclear power plants in Illinois, the concrete, steel and sophisticated engineering that undergird the nation’s infrastructure are being taxed to worrisome degrees by heat, drought and vicious storms."

Examples include a passenger airliner getting stuck on a heat-softened runway, heat-stretched subway rails, heat contracting the ground beneath highways causing splits while the highways themselves expand and buckle.  Too-hot water in both intake valves and cooling pools threatens power generated from nuclear plants--and it is the power grid in general that is most in danger from the consequences of heat and storms.

Infrastructure is designed with locally "normal" extremes in mind.  But not for extreme extremes, and certainly not for long.  But now such extremes are becoming normal.  The Times:

 "The frequency of extreme weather is up over the past few years, and people who deal with infrastructure expect that to continue. Leading climate models suggest that weather-sensitive parts of the infrastructure will be seeing many more extreme episodes, along with shifts in weather patterns and rising maximum (and minimum) temperatures. " 

Dealing with all this costs money, and while some of that spending may come from companies that are at least partly "private" (like some power companies), much of it must come from government.  But without leadership acknowledging this new reality, especially on the federal level,  these problems are not likely to be adequately addressed.  This too is already becoming evident where the problems and their consequences occur.  

It's an unsustainable situation. The longer it goes on, the worse the problems become, and the greater the suffering--and the fear.

No comments: