MRCTI Responds To National Climate Assessment

The Mississippi River Cities & Towns Initiative (MRCTI) group said that the Fourth National Climate Assessment (NCA), released in November, affirms its warning to take overt actions to protect the national’s waterways.

“We’ve been seeing these changes play out on the ground for a while now, and we have been doing what we can to mitigate the impacts to our cities,” said Lionel Johnson, mayor of St. Gabriel, La., and co-chair of MRCTI. “Indeed, increased climate risk and persistently worsening disasters are two drivers that brought mayors from along America’s waterways together in the first place.”

The assessment splits the Mississippi River into two regions—the valley and a larger basin—that are slated to incur significant climate impacts over the near-term, with costs soaring well into the billions of dollars if major changes are not pursued in a short period of time.

“The first duty of government is to help ensure the safety and health of the people it represents, so leaders should heed the report’s calls for action,” said Mayor Jacob Frey of Minneapolis, Minn. “Minneapolis is already charting a course toward 100 percent renewable electricity. To better protect the Mississippi River—a major force for economic justice and a key source for drinking water—we need to partner with communities, neighboring jurisdictions and states by following the data and taking meaningful steps to curb climate change.”

Infrastructure, manufacturing, agriculture and vulnerability are all implicated in this new report.

“I was taken back by some of the findings of this report, and I thought I had been pretty prepared,” said Mayor Bob Gallagher of Bettendorf, Iowa. “The assessment states the annual cost of adapting urban storm water systems to more frequent and severe storms is projected to exceed $500 million for the Midwest by the end of the century; and, more important to my state of Iowa, the assessment says projected changes in precipitation, coupled with rising extreme temperatures before mid-century, will reduce Midwest agricultural productivity to levels of the 1980s without major technological advances.”

The Mississippi River Corridor has already sustained more than $200 billion in disaster impacts since 2005, with six of the 10 Mississippi River states incurring more than $10 billion in losses for each state.

“After the 1,000-year rain event of 2016 in my city, I have been paying close attention to credible projections for future events,” said Sharon Weston Broome, mayor of Baton Rouge, La. “The NCA states the combined impacts of sea-level rise and storm surge in the Southeast have the potential to cost up to $60 billion each year in 2050 and up to $99 billion in 2090; that level of impact cannot be dismissed or put off for the next generation to deal with.”

MRCTI said that it has been working diligently in this area since 2012 to address new trends along the Mississippi River, including:

• Assembling two built and natural infrastructure plans presented to Congress and largely funded at the prescribed national level;

• working with FEMA to broaden the application and benefits of pre-disaster mitigation;

• joining with the global reinsurance industry to develop a recovery facility for cities;

• partnering with NOAA to establish a drought economic assessment for the corridor; and

• developing funding mechanisms to restore natural infrastructure and incentivize sustainable agriculture.

“To us, the broad and intensive effects of increased climate risk described in the NCA will have a collective impact across many economic and human health sectors creating significant impacts that require priority national response now,” said Frank Klipsch, mayor of Davenport, Iowa, and co-chair of MRCTI. “We’re on the front lines of these impacts. We urge lawmakers to take the NCA very seriously and appoint a national commission to develop a set of immediate and near-term recommendations for Congress and state administrations.”