Climate Change and the U.S. Infrastructure

A new report released by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) expresses serious concerns about the current state of our nation’s energy sector.  The report, U.S. Energy Sector Vulnerabilities to Climate Change and Extreme Weather, focuses on the dangerous strain currently on America’s system of energy resources.

A July 11th article in The New York Times (“Climate Change Will Cause More Energy Breakdowns, U.S. Warns”) drew attention to the report and highlighted some of its key findings.  The Times article states:  “Every corner of the country’s energy infrastructure – oil wells, hydroelectric dams, nuclear power plants – will be stressed in coming years by more intense storms, rising seas, higher temperatures and more frequent droughts.”

According to the DOE report, “July 2012 was the hottest month in the United States since record keeping began in 1895, and 2012 was the warmest year overall…  These trends, which are expected to continue… could restrict the supply of secure, sustainable, and affordable energy critical to the nation’s economic growth.”  The DOE is concerned that recent extreme weather patterns, which have been caused by climate change, represent a serious threat to America’s energy sector.

The 2013 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure – published every four years by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) – gave the U.S. an overall grade of D+, with the energy sector also receiving a D+ ranking.  The Report Card states:  “Investment in power transmission has increased since 2005, but ongoing permitting issues, weather events, and limited maintenance have contributed to an increasing number of failures and power interruptions.”

ASCE estimates an investment of $3.6 trillion by 2020 is needed just to repair and maintain our nation’s infrastructure, which includes:  aviation, bridges, dams, drinking water, energy, hazardous waste, inland waterways, levees, ports, public parks and recreation, rail, roads, schools, solid waste, transit, and wastewater.

Perhaps the most significant statement on the Report Card is ASCE’s notation that “the availability of energy… will become a greater challenge… as the population increases.”

For over 40 years, NPG has worked to educate American citizens and legislators regarding the dangers of overpopulation.  The current state of our infrastructure (including our energy resources) will continue to deteriorate unless we halt, and eventually reverse, the growth of our population.

In a recent President’s Column entry (“Climate Change and the Size of Our U.S. Population – Any Connection?”), NPG President Don Mann explored the link between greenhouse gas emissions and population size and growth.  The evidence is clear:  if per capita emissions are the same, the size of our population is the principle determinant of the amount of our greenhouse gas emissions.

Scientists proved long ago that with large quantities of greenhouse gas emissions, the global ecosystem responds with climate change.  Climate change has been shown to be directly responsible for recent trends in extreme weather patterns:  widespread drought, intensified storm systems, higher sea levels, and rising temperatures.  The rolling power blackouts and brownouts, millions of dollars in storm damages, water and gas main breaks, and water supply shortages are just the beginning – we can, and should, expect increasing consequences if our population is allowed to continue growing mindlessly.

We must recognize that America is already vastly overpopulated – that our ecosystem, economy, infrastructure, and resources cannot sustain our present population, let alone millions more.  The U.S. must adopt reasonable, responsible population and immigration policies in order to create a sustainable economy, with an adequate standard of living for all.  The time is now, and the future is in our hands.


“The U.S. is now careening mindlessly toward a population near [400] million by mid-century.  It adds [3.1] million people a year, including some [1] million immigrants – even in times of high unemployment.  Yet it has no explicit population policy.  And it prefers to do without any established mechanism in either the executive or legislative branch for regularly tracking the environmental, social and economic effects of population size, distribution and composition.”

Excerpt from Australia Considers a Population Policy:  Any Lessons for a Drifting USA? (NPG Forum paper – April 2011, by David Simcox)

Tracy Henke

Tracy Henke served as Deputy Director of NPG from 2012 to 2017, contributing to the structure and development of NPG’s publications programs. Acting as NPG’s principal editor and a contributing author – as well as a regular contact for the public and media, Tracy extensively researched U.S. population issues and worked to establish significant grassroots support for the NPG mission. She holds a degree in Leadership & Social Change from Virginia Tech, with a professional background in non-profit and program management.

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