Take a moment to imagine the impacts of global climate change. What comes to mind? Melting ice caps, rising sea levels, and retreating glaciers? Those are all true, but do you think about the intensifying heat waves, like the one in Chicago that killed 739 in 1995? What about longer droughts that cause crop failures, like the one this summer that pushed up the price of corn by 23% in July? And what about the extreme heat that damages roads, highways, and railroads?
When we talk about climate change, we should remember that its impacts are not limited to distant ecosystems, and can hit closer to home. This article from the New York Times depicts some of the damage that the U.S. infrastructure has sustained because of the summer’s abnormally high temperatures. The heat bent railroads out of shape, causing derailments. Soil dried out and shrunk, causing roads to buckle and creating hazardous potholes and cracks. For our infrastructure to survive such weather extremes, which are predicted to intensify in the coming decades, we will need to pay for costly maintainence and upgrades.
Most climate scientists would agree that climate change has helped cause the extreme weather events we’ve seen. If the U.S. and the world are to take appropriate action against climate change, be it mitigation or adaptation, we need to understand how it puts real costs on our society.