Connecting the Dots: Extreme Weather, Carbon Pollution and our Roads and Property

"Connecting the Dots” is a phrase we use all the time. It generally means, ‘use your simple logical skills to understand that one event or data point is related to another, and they both add up to something greater than their individual parts.

Well our friends at have organized a global day of action tomorrow to connect the dots between the trend of extreme weather events and the increase of carbon pollution in the atmosphere. leader Bill McKibben has a nice piece about the Connect the Dots day in The Guardian (UK) today. Carbon pollution mostly comes from power plants, industrial facilities, and the transportation sector. My colleague Dan Lashof posted a good blog about the day of action and efforts to curb carbon pollution today.

The global scientific community long ago made this connection. New polling suggests that Americans are connecting the dots between climate change and extreme weather more and more--seven in ten now believe that "global warming is affecting the weather."

It’s no surprise when you see massive snow storms on Halloween in the Northeast that left hundreds of thousands without power for many days, persistent drought in the Southeast and Southwest…the list goes on. All in all there were a record 14 weather events last year that caused more than $1 billion in damage.

These extreme weather events are not only causing serious damage to our homes and property, they are impacting the very fabric that keeps our society operating. By that I mean the pipes that bring us water, the roads and bridges we drive on every day, the sewage systems that deal with our waste-water, and power lines that bring electricity to our homes.

Let’s look at roads and transportation. The Center for Clean Air Policy and the Environment and Energy Study Institute released a report this week that highlights the risks to our already deteriorating roads and bridges. The study synthesizes the impacts reported by local transportation officials from around the country, and emphasized the need for more localized data on projected climate impacts, and for greater coordination among local, state and federal officials. Alls of this of course means more targeted funding.

Though sometimes underemphasized, transportation infrastructure often takes the biggest hit in severe weather conditions. A record-breaking number of extreme weather events last year alone caused more than $50 billion in damage. Climate change is and will only make this deterioration worse, threatening the fabric of our lives and commerce.

As report author Steve Winkelman notes:

For the most part, people running the road systems and the power ways are realizing that regardless of what people are saying about 2050, the trends of the last decade are a wake-up call, and we need to be paying more attention to [the changing climate].

The report is timely as Congress is currently negotiating a Transportation Bill (see blog by my colleague Deron Lovaas) with billions of dollars of funding for transportation projects in the balance. Congress, surprise, is gridlocked over the bill.

One way to get Members of Congress to understand we need a good bill, and action to tackle climate change now, is to participate in Connecting the Dots day of action tomorrow.