White House: Prepare for climate change in infrastructure planning

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The Obama administration is convening local and state leaders and experts Tuesday to encourage infrastructure planning to incorporate climate change preparation.

The administration is hoping that along with factors like population and economic growth, local and state governments can think of a changing climate when they build highways, bridges, transit and other projects.

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Jeffrey Zients and Christy Goldfuss, advisers to President Obama on economic and environmental policy respectively, explained the effort in a Tuesday blog post.

“It’s not just population and economic growth that will put pressure on U.S. infrastructure,” they wrote. “Climate change will also test the strength and endurance of the highways we drive on, the airports we fly out of, and the dams, reservoirs, canals and water facilities that provide water to our homes, businesses and farms.”

The event fits in with a key strategy in Obama’s second-term climate change push: to show Americans how climate change will affect their everyday lives and their backyards, and to either help them cope with the effects or show them the great effort that is necessary to cope with rising sea levels, hotter weather and other changes that scientists are forecasting.

It also comes as the Obama administration and Congress once again try to find a way to pay for the hundreds of billions of dollars of infrastructure improvements, maintain and new facilities are needed to help the country thrive.

Tuesday’s event will highlight some success stories from the Obama administration’s July 2014 initiative to connect local governments with the financing they need for infrastructure.

The White House is also using the event to release a guide to help officials adjust their infrastructure planning for climate.

“The guide includes an extensive list of all federal programs that can help local, state and tribal governments in the early stages of a project’s life,” the advisers wrote. “It also includes a set of principles for planning and design that we hope will be a resource for communities around the country as they build projects that will define growth and development in the decades ahead.”

The guests at Tuesday’s roundtable will include about 90 investors, local and state officials, policy experts, nonprofit leaders and federal representatives.

The White House’s councils of economic and environmental advisers are hosting the event with the Ford and Rockefeller foundations.