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Opinion Why Biden's jobs plan is crucial step in confronting climate change

13:51  22 april  2021
13:51  22 april  2021 Source:   usatoday.com

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The American Jobs Plan, an approximately $2 trillion infrastructure package proposed by the Biden administration, calls for rebuilding the economy as we address two converging issues: failing infrastructure and the climate crisis.

The Biden plan is timely and desperately needed.

In March, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE)  released the 2021 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure and gave the country a C-minus. The report said the United States is spending barely over half of what is needed to improve critical infrastructure.

a pond with grass next to a body of water: minnesota valley wildlife refuge and highway 77 bridge crossing wetlands in bloomington minnesota © jferrer, Getty Images/iStockphoto minnesota valley wildlife refuge and highway 77 bridge crossing wetlands in bloomington minnesota

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Eleven of 17 categories in the report received a grade in the ‘D’ range: aviation, dams, hazardous waste, inland waterways, levees, public parks, roads, schools, storm water, transit and wastewater. It is clear that action is needed.

Evidence of the escalating climate crisis also mounts. Earlier this year, analysis by NASA found that 2020 tied with 2016 as the warmest year on record.

In addition, the World Wildlife Fund has analyzed the economic costs of nature loss and found that the cumulative losses to global gross domestic product are a staggering $10 trillion by 2050 if we do not take action to change our collective course. The economic losses to the United States would be $83 billion a year, the most of all the countries studied.

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The high cost is largely due to increased exposure of coastal infrastructure and agricultural land to climate change-induced flooding and erosion, causing food and agricultural commodity prices to rise and increasing property losses.

While these challenges are daunting, the American Jobs Plan presents a clear-eyed response and a once in a generation opportunity to address these three interrelated crises — infrastructure, climate change and nature loss — to maximize benefits for the American people, create good and durable jobs, and set the United States on the path to a climate-resilient economy.

It is increasingly recognized that nature can function as infrastructure by providing services such as water provisioning and coastal protection. For example, in Seadrift, Texas, Dow Chemical Co. determined that the cost between a traditional water treatment facility and a wetland was approximately $40 million and $1-$2 million, making natural infrastructure a much less expensive option.

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Studies using industry risk models have shown that coastal wetlands reduced flood damages caused from Hurricane Sandy by 20% to 30% in Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey and Virginia and helped reduce damage to thousands of miles of roads.

Natural infrastructure saves money

Similarly, it has been shown that forested and sustainably managed farmlands in watersheds can improve water quality and water flow at lower costs than traditional gray forms of infrastructure. The growing evidence base of nature's ability to deliver real infrastructure benefits at lower costs, and reinforce the effectiveness of traditional infrastructure, has led the ASCE to recognize natural infrastructure as a key solution for building resilience and raising America's C-minus grade.

Natural infrastructure also provides additional benefits that gray infrastructure cannot, such as carbon storage and sequestration. There is no feasible pathway to net-zero greenhouse emissions in time to avoid globally catastrophic consequences without urgently halting deforestation.

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In the United States, carbon storage in forest ecosystems offset about 9% of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2016. Mangrove forests and coastal wetlands are just as important for climate change mitigation by sequestering carbon at a rate 10 times greater than mature tropical forests and storing three to five times more carbon per equivalent area than tropical forests.

In addition, wetlands support tourism, recreation, and more than 75% of the commercial and 90% of the recreational harvest of fish and shellfish in America.

Protecting nature helps to create jobs

Restoration and protection of nature also is a powerful job creator. In 2014, ecological restoration generated 220,000 jobs in the United States, employing more people than coal mining (79,000), logging (54,000) or steel production (91,000).

The "new economy" that the American Jobs Plan aspires to create should be one that values the many benefits natural systems provide to our economy and society. Historically, nature has been viewed as a source of costs associated with protection, such as national park management, or as something to be exploited for economic returns.

Now, it's clear that nature is a vital part of our economy. As such, we must direct investments into natural infrastructure with the same urgency and importance as new investments in roads, ports, dams and levees.

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The return on such investment will be threefold: a safer climate, jobs that take Americans forward into the new economy and infrastructure to underpin a prosperous future.

Richard Saines, a partner at Pollination Group, is recognized by France for his significant contribution to the preparation and implementation of the Paris Agreement. Jane Carter Ingram is executive director of Pollination Group and an adjunct associated professor in the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Why Biden's jobs plan is crucial step in confronting climate change

Why President Joe Biden's speech to Congress was unlike any other in modern history .
A joint sessions speech, known for its glad-handing cadence, was bound to be subdued with only 200 folks permitted at an event that can hold 1,500.President Joe Biden's address to a joint session of Congress was unlike any in modern history due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With no more than 200 folks permitted for an event that can hold up to 1,500, an event known for its glad-handing cadence and rousing moments was destined to be subdued.

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