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Pete Buttigieg: Fix Roads Before Climate Change Washes Them Away — Literally

By Jake Beardslee · May 27, 2024

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg warned that climate change is already straining America's transportation systems and causing an increase in severe turbulence that airlines must prepare for.  Jack Gruber / USA TODAY

In an interview on CBS' "Face the Nation" on Sunday, Buttigieg said "The effects of climate change are already upon us in terms of our transportation. We've seen that in the form of everything from heat waves that shouldn't statistically even be possible threatening to melt the cables of transit systems in the Pacific Northwest, to, as you mentioned, hurricane seasons becoming more and more extreme and indications that turbulence is up by about 15%."  Nick King / Lansing State Journal / USA TODAY NETWORK

He referenced the recent turbulence incident on a Singapore Airlines flight that resulted in the death of one passenger, saying "To be clear, something that extreme is very rare. But turbulence can happen and sometimes it can happen unexpectedly."  Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren / special to USA TODAY

Buttigieg emphasized the need to continually update aviation policies, technology and infrastructure to account for the changing climate conditions. "Our climate is evolving. Our policies and our technology and our infrastructure have to evolve accordingly, too. This is all about making sure that we stay ahead of the curve, keeping aviation as safe as it is."  Jack Gruber / USA TODAY

Beyond aviation, the Secretary highlighted how the Biden administration's infrastructure investments are focused on improving resilience. "It makes no sense to build a road to the exact specification we required 100 years ago, have it be washed out, required to be put back just the way it was, and have it be washed out again," Buttigieg said.  Jack Gruber / USA TODAY

"Which is why through the PROTECT program, the first dedicated resilience fund of its kind, another feature of the President's infrastructure package, we're making those kinds of improvements to various forms of transportation infrastructure across the country."  Jack Gruber / USA TODAY

While climate change poses challenges, Buttigieg framed it as an opportunity for American leadership, pushing back on claims that the transition to electric vehicles is being forced too quickly.  Kevin Neri / Statesman Journal / USA TODAY NETWORK

"The most important thing is that the EV revolution will happen with or without us. And we've got to make sure that it's American-led," he stated.  Jack Gruber, Jack Gruber / USA TODAY NETWORK

"Under President Biden's leadership, we're making sure that the EV revolution will be a Made-in-America EV revolution."  Jenna Watson/IndyStar / USA TODAY NETWORK

As climate impacts intensify, the transportation sector is being forced to adapt through new policies, technologies and infrastructure to increase resilience and maintain safety standards. Buttigieg said the administration sees this as an economic imperative for the U.S. to lead rather than falling behind.  Jenna Watson/IndyStar / USA TODAY NETWORK