Infrastructure bill offers ‘once in a generation' investment in climate resilience

A man in a mask walks through a Capitol hallway.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) arrives at his office before opening the Senate for debate on a $1 trillion infrastructure bill on July 31.
Joshua Roberts | Getty Images file

The Senate’s bipartisan infrastructure bill is headed to the House, where progressive Democrats say it doesn't do enough to reduce emissions, especially on the heels of this week’s dire United Nations climate report. But it does invest billions to help communities prepare for the effects of climate change.

Forbes Tompkins manages federal policy efforts for the flood-prepared communities initiative at The Pew Charitable Trusts. He said that the bill “marks, potentially, a once-in-a-generation investment in climate adaptation and resilience.”

The bill opens up more resources for communities to develop plans and implement projects to prepare for flooding and other disasters, with a focus on transportation, Tompkins said.

There’s also money in the bill to help tribal governments resettle members living in vulnerable areas. Tompkins said this is an indication that the United States is ready to slow development in at-risk areas and stop ignoring the looming prospect of climate migration.

As for the bipartisan support for the bill in the Senate? Tompkins called it a “game-changer.”

“It’s critical that we move away from some of these more piecemeal approaches,” Tompkins said about addressing climate change. Climate change affects people of every political affiliation in every part of the country, he said, which means we need to interweave climate resilience into long-term plans and policies at every level of government.

Tompkins spoke with MPR News chief meteorologist Paul Huttner on this week’s Climate Cast. Click play on the audio player above or subscribe to the Climate Cast podcast to hear more.

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