At what was very likely its final hearing, the House of Representatives’ Select Committee on the Climate Crisis convened December 6th to review its accomplishments and discuss considerations for future action.
Created at the start of the 116th Congress, the select committee was authorized to study and make recommendations on policies to solve the climate crisis. The future of the committee is dim, as the Republican-led House will likely direct attention to different legislative priorities when the new Congress convenes January 3rd.
One of the notable accomplishments touted at the hearing was the Inflation Reduction Act, which provides $369 billion for energy security and climate change programs and incorporates ideas from the select committee’s majority staff report titled “Solving the Climate Crisis.” While ASCE did not take a formal position on the Inflation Reduction Act due to its sprawling scope, ASCE was pleased to see that the legislation accounts for the impacts of climate change on the nation’s infrastructure.
While many of the select committee’s members discussed the positive direction taken by the panel, Chair Kathy Castor (D-FL) insisted that the fight for climate action must continue. The witnesses, a variety of energy and public policy experts, offered their perspectives on steps to continue to meet the challenges of climate change.
Alice Hill, senior fellow for energy and the environment at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), identified the creation of a national adaptation strategy as an essential action to increase preparedness for climate extremes. She said core elements of a national adaptation strategy should include the promotion of multi-hazard planning, the identification of a mechanism to prioritize investments, and the adjustment of cost-benefit analyses of federal investments to reflect the future benefits of resilience.
Hill also stressed the importance of promoting the development of climate-resilient building codes. ASCE agrees with this assessment, as the most reliable way to ensure our nation’s infrastructure is disaster resilient is the widespread adoption and enforcement of modern, up-to-date building codes, combined with vital research to increase our understanding of climate hazards. ASCE remains committed to working with policymakers to develop and implement legislation that not only incentivizes the use of the most up-to-date standards, but policies that prioritize the resilience of our infrastructure systems.
Increased investment in research labs, the affordability of energy, and permitting reform were also raised by lawmakers and witnesses as issues that should be addressed in the near future. Brad Markell, executive director of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL–CIO) Industrial Union Council, said permitting reform is needed to accelerate large-scale energy projects and meet the nation’s climate goals.
Looking ahead, the select committee’s majority staff plans to release a report next week outlining policies that have already been enacted and additional steps they believe are necessary to reduce the impacts of climate change.
Climate and hazards mitigation is one of ASCE’s 2023 priority issues. Most infrastructure is built to provide long service lives and is expected to remain functional, durable, and safe. However, the increasing frequency and intensity of natural disasters, combined with increasing population densities and system interdependencies, have demonstrated vulnerabilities in the nation’s infrastructure.