Climate Change is a phenomenon that is slowly, but surely, beginning to take its toll on our planet, and as a result, it is also slowly, but surely, taking a toll on the infrastructure that is so vital to the functioning of human life. When we talk about Infrastructure destruction by climate change, we mean the destruction and disruption of these fundamental tools such as roads, bridges, dams, agricultural irrigation systems, power lines and grids, water, building plans, sewer systems, and other necessary structures that support our daily life and civilization.
Whether it’s through flooding, droughts, wildfires, hurricanes, or landslides – destruction of infrastructure is becoming an all too common consequence of climate change. While the scale of destruction can vary, the effects it has on humanity and the economy is often devastating and long-term.
The Magnitude of Damage Caused by Floods
One of the most dramatic forms of destruction of infrastructure caused by climate change has been that of floods. Often, significant amounts of infrastructure and associated materials can be damaged to the point of destruction, where the cost to replace and/or repair these items can be astronomical.
Large-scale floods can easily overwhelm and topple buildings, bridges, roads, and other transportation networks. Residences, businesses, and agricultural facilities can all be heavily damaged or destroyed by floodwaters. Utilities and essential services, such as power and telecommunications, can be shut down for considerable periods of time.
Over the 20 years from 1995 to 2015, floods are believed to have caused approximately $547 billion in damages across 150 countries. This number is only expected to increase as the earth’s climate continues to get warmer.
The Drastic Effects of Droughts
Drought is another form of climate change that can wreak havoc on our infrastructure. Drought essentially acts like a “twin brother” to floods, where it causes extensive destruction, though it works its damage differently.
For instance, drought is more serious in that it can last for extended periods of time and can cause disruption to vital services and essential resources. Water shortages, dust storms, and dust devils are just a few of the problems that accompany droughts.
In a way, it is even more damaging than floods, since water shortages can be particularly damaging for agriculture, and lead to a scarcity in the food supply. Businesses and industry can also suffer, since water is one of the most essential resources for operations.
The Extreme Danger of Wildfires
Perhaps the most terrifying and costly form of destruction caused by climate change is Wildfire. Wildfires can be incredibly devastating, with its raging flames consuming large areas rapidly and leading to mass destruction.
The smoke and ashes released by a single wildfire can travel thousands of miles, and at the same time expose people to a vast array of physical and mental health issues, including a medley of respiratory ailments.
When it comes to infrastructure, wildfires can burn through vast swaths of land, leaving roads and bridges blocked by fallen trees and rubble. Power lines, electric grids, pipelines, homes, and businesses can all be reduced to ash in a matter of moments.
Wildfires predicted to become more frequent and severe in the coming years due to climate change, and have already inflicted damage to the tune of tens of billions of dollars.
Disruption of Services: The Unexpected Side of Climate Change
Apart from physical destruction, climate change can also cause massive disruption of services, which can affect the health, safety and well-being of society. For instance, entities that are responsible for manufacturing, transport, communication, and other vital services, can suffer crippling damage or disruption due to floods, droughts, and other extreme weather conditions.
Even the most advanced technological infrastructure, like satellites, are not immune to the effects of climate change. In turn, this can cause communication and navigation interruptions, and a total lack of accuracy in forecasting and forecasting services
What Can Be Done?
In order to address the destruction of infrastructure caused by climate change, there need to be comprehensive strategies developed to tackle the root causes of climate change, as well as addressing the effects of it on infrastructure.
On the global level, the Paris Agreement calls for nations to commit to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases that are released into the atmosphere, thus curbing global warming and arresting the destruction of infrastructure.
On the local or national level, there should be strategies in place to enhance the resilience of structures and systems before a disaster strikes. This includes bolstering the physical structures and strengthening systems like early warning signals and risk-preparedness plans.
In addition, measures should be taken to enhance the effectiveness of climate-resilient infrastructure. This includes making changes in materials usage and designs, and using renewable energy sources to reduce the amount of energy needed for disaster protection.
Ultimately, the solutions to combat climate change will vary according to different regions and geographical areas. However, a combination of strategies and initiatives aimed at reducing carbon emissions, increasing infrastructure resilience, and developing new strategies is essential in order to ensure that our infrastructure is protected from further destruction caused by climate change.