UAA study finds climate change could add $6 billion to public infrastructure costs in alaska by 2030
by Kathleen McCoy |
Warming climate in Alaska could have a dramatic financial impact on the public infrastructure
of the state that could reach billions of dollars according to a report released today
by the University of Alaska Anchorage Institute for Social and Economic Research.
The report, Estimating Future Costs for Alaska Public Infrastructure at Risk From Climate Change, shows that it will be roughly 10 to 20 percent more expensive to maintain and replace public infrastructure in Alaska between now and 2030, and 10 percent more expensive between now and 2080. The total cost to Alaska could reach well into the billions given the latest regional projections of future climate.
Using a model developed by ISER, the School of Engineering at UAA and the University of Colorado at Boulder, researchers were able to develop preliminary estimates of how climate change might add to future costs for public infrastructure in Alaska. These costs are associated with federal, state and local infrastructure that keep Alaska functioning, such as roads, bridges, airports, harbors, schools, military bases, post offices, fire stations, sanitation systems, the power grid and more.
Most of the damage is expected to be concentrated in places where permafrost thaws, flooding increases and coastal erosion gets worse. Extra infrastructure costs from climate change will likely come from maintaining or replacing roads, runways, and water and sewer systems. The costs will likely diminish over time as government agencies increasingly adapt infrastructure to changing conditions.
The estimates of additional costs are in net present value, which is a standard way of estimating costs over long periods of time. Even without climate change, the present value costs of maintaining and replacing existing public infrastructure in Alaska will be considerable-an estimated $32 billion between now and 2030 and $56 billion between now and 2080.
Damage from climate change could add $3.6 to $6.1 billion (10 to 20 percent) to future costs for public infrastructure from now to 2030, and $5.6 to $7.6 billion (10 to 12 percent) from now to 2080. These estimates take into account the effects of only one, middle-of-the-road, projection of climate over the coming century and assume agencies adapt infrastructure to changing conditions.
Although the results are preliminary, they offer a general picture of the extra costs public agencies face as warming proceeds. This study also provides much needed and new information for those considering the best policy approaches for addressing the challenges presented by climate change. Researchers hope that Estimating Future Costs for Alaska Public Infrastructure at Risk From Climate Change will stimulate more efforts to better understand and measure the problem. As more information becomes available, a plan is in place to improve both the modeling techniques and cost estimates in the future.
Estimating Future Costs for Alaska Public Infrastructure at Risk From Climate Change was authored by Peter Larsen, Scott Goldsmith, Ben Saylor, and Meghan Wilson of ISER; Orson Smith of UAA's Civil Engineering Department; and Ken Strzepek and Paul Chinowsky of the University of Colorado at Boulder. Partial funding and support for this project was provided by the National Commission on Energy Policy (NCEP), the Alaska Conservation Foundation (ACF) and the Rural Alaska Community Action Program (RurALCAP).