“Managed Retreat?” — Once More, Scientists Fail to Consult with Branding Specialists

Two seemingly unrelated adaptation stories caught my eye last week.  The first involved efforts by the California Coastal Commission to provide guidance on “Residential Adaptation” to climate change.  The primary reason why the draft guidance is getting so much attention is that the Commission raised the possibility of “managed retreat” in some situations.

I get the point of managed retreat.  It seems preferable to repeatedly bowing to political pressure and bailing out coastal property owners who ignore the risks associated with climate change.  I will say that, once more, the forces of good have done a pretty terrible job with their messaging.  I know this – our President will never have anything to do with anything that involves “retreat.”  The President wants to Make America Great, while his enemies just want to Make America Retreat.  Who’s going to win that PR battle?

At the same time, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine just released its report on “Renewing the National Commitment to the Interstate Highway System.”  Even aside from climate change, it’s not a cheery report.  My take?  We’re on our way to having a third-world highway system, unless we are willing to raise revenue.

Add in climate change to the funding shortfalls and I foresee a third-world highway system that has important pieces underwater in big storms.  The NAS report is a big picture analysis of what’s necessary to maintain the highway system; it is not per se about climate change.  Nonetheless, it uses a lot of ink addressing the concept of resilience.

The bottom line is that, if we’re not willing to raise revenue to do basic maintenance, we’re certainly not going to raise revenue to make our highways resilient in the face of climate change.  If I-10 is both falling apart and repeatedly under water in 2030, it may be left to President Donald Trump, Jr., to manage the retreat.

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