OAKLAND, Calif. (September 26, 2016)—California Gov. Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 2800 (Quirk, D-Hayward) into law, requiring the creation of a climate-safe infrastructure working group. This law will help address a dangerous disconnect between engineering and climate science that threatens the safety and benefits of costly public infrastructure projects.
California spends billions of taxpayer dollars on new and existing infrastructure, but the infrastructure plans and design aren’t always informed by the best available climate science. The bill, sponsored by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), will bring together state professional engineers, architects and climate scientists to develop recommendations for best practices to integrate the effects of climate change into state infrastructure design and construction. Engineers have traditionally relied upon historical data and trends, but climate scientists say the past is no longer a good predictor of the future.
“Just as seismic safety standards are essential to public safety when a disastrous earthquake strikes, the stakes are also high if we don’t design infrastructure to withstand the effects of climate change,” said Jamesine Rogers Gibson, UCS western states senior climate analyst. “The law creates a forum for an important nuts-and-bolts conversation between engineers, architects and climate scientists about how to better integrate our changing climate into design and engineering solutions.”
Even though California is at the cutting edge of producing climate data and tools, engineers don’t always have the information they need—or in a form they can readily use—to help them plan for a range of climate futures. It is critical that costly public infrastructure projects, such as roads, bridges, dams, reservoirs and buildings, which are built to last for many decades remain safe and reliable as climate change results in higher temperatures, more frequent and intense extreme weather events, and accelerated sea level rise.
California already is making important strides in addressing climate resilience, including through Gov. Jerry Brown’s Executive Order B-30-15, which requires state agencies to factor climate change into their planning and investment decisions; AB 1482 (Gordon), which requires the Natural Resources Agency to report on the state’s vulnerabilities to climate change by sector and prepare a “Safeguarding California” implementation plan; and SB 246 (Wieckowski), which requires the Office of Planning and Research to coordinate regional and local efforts with state climate adaptation strategies. However, none of these efforts specifically addresses the disconnect between climate science and engineering design and construction.
“This bill continues to build on state efforts to address the grand challenge of climate change adaptation,” said Assembly Member Bill Quirk (D-Hayward). “I am proud that Governor Brown has committed to making sure engineers and climate scientists are working together to ensure our state infrastructures are resilient enough to withstand the impacts of climate change.”
In advocating for the bill, UCS continually made the point that infrastructure is costly to build and therefore must last. “This law is a common-sense step to preparing state engineers to design infrastructure so that it can be safe and resilient in the face of a changing climate,” said Jason Barbose, UCS western states policy manager. “Governor Brown and Assembly Member Quirk are helping to bridge the disconnect between climate science and engineering design.”