Opinion | We Can’t Afford to Shrink Climate Spending on Infrastructure

By Jake Bittle

Mr. Bittle is a reporter working on a book about climate migration.

After months of negotiating, President Biden and centrist Democrats have coalesced around a $600 billion infrastructure bill for roads and bridges, mainly because it has a chance of garnering some Republican support.

Separately, on Tuesday, top Senate Democrats announced a larger, $3.5 trillion infrastructure plan that directs money toward families and climate change — top goals for liberals. Mr. Biden has expressed support for that larger package, too, but he will need to keep all the centrists in his own party on board.

From the point of view of future generations, the priority here is clear. The impacts of climate change are only getting worse, and we need a huge investment now to avert the worst damage. Republicans and moderates might deride the size of $3.5 trillion package as partisan pork, but the fact is it represents a down payment on our survival. Mr. Biden and his fellow Democrats need to pursue the kind of bold climate spending that will help ensure a safe future for the planet.

When centrist Democrats argue against new spending, they often bring up the interests of future generations — whatever bill we run up now, our grandchildren will have to pay off. But when it comes to climate change, the opposite is true. The cost of mitigating and preparing for climate change is very high, but the cost of not doing those things is even higher.

There are two main reasons for this. The first is climate adaptation. Rising sea levels and intensifying wildfires and torrential rains threaten roads, homes, buildings, power grids and water systems. Our infrastructure needs to be updated to prepare for this age of climate calamity, and the investments in both bills will most likely help fund those updates.

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