Governor Signs Bill to Strengthen State Infrastructure Amid Climate Chaos

Statement by Adrienne Alvord, Western States Director, Union of Concerned Scientists

Published Sep 25, 2020

OAKLAND, Calif. (September 24, 2020)—At the end of a summer marked by relentless heat, destructive wildfire, suffocating smoke and a deadly pandemic, Governor Gavin Newsom today signed into law AB 2800 (Quirk), legislation that removes the sunset provision in a law passed in 2016 that required state agencies to consider climate change when working on infrastructure.

In addition to making the requirement permanent, the new law requires state agencies to assess the economic damages and financial liabilities of climate change when assessing future infrastructure needs. The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) sponsored the legislation as well as the 2016 law, which resulted in a 2018 report by the Climate-Safe Infrastructure Working Group. This is the first law of its kind in the country.

Below is a statement by Adrienne Alvord, Western States director at UCS. Alvord served as lead staff for California State Senator Fran Pavley during the passage of the California Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32), the state’s 2006 landmark climate law that established the first enforceable economy-wide greenhouse gas reduction target in the U.S.

“One degree of global warming has already intensified wildfires, droughts, extreme heat, rising seas and floods and stressed our state’s roads, power grid, bridges, buildings and water system. More warming and destructive climate impacts are guaranteed at this point. Knowing that, we must ensure our infrastructure can fully serve California communities’ needs in the warmer decades to come.

“But frankly, our state agencies and staff are not thinking of climate every step of the way when they plan, design, build, operate, maintain and invest in state infrastructure. There’s interest and goodwill among state staff to get it right, but unfortunately a lack of climate science expertise across agencies means there is often no one available to interpret the climate science and effectively plan for the hotter, more volatile future to come. This new law helps ensure climate considerations are not just a checkbox but rather based on the most recent science and experts’ best recommendations.

“Signing AB 2800 is an important step toward preparing our aging infrastructure for the worsening climate extremes we face.”