A Literal Wall Expert Explains Why Trump's Wall Won't Even Work
President Donald Trump's unrelenting bid to build a wall on the southern border has not only held up much of the federal government for 24 days and counting, its construction could be devastating to the environment and local wildlife.
Now, in a epic Facebook post shared more than 100,000 times, an actual structural and civil engineer explained why the project is also a "monumental waste of money" and will be ineffective if it ever goes up.
"Structurally and civil engineering-wise, the border wall is not a feasible project," wrote Amy Patrick, a structural and civil engineer from Houston, Texas.
"Trump did not hire engineers to design the thing. He solicited bids from contractors, not engineers. This means it's not been designed by professionals. It's a disaster of numerous types waiting to happen," she added.
Patrick teaches structural analysis and design at the University of Houston and says she has been deposed as an expert witness in matters regarding proper wall construction, making her a literal "court-accepted expert on walls."
She shared three major concerns about the wall, including how it could impede the movement of water during flash floods and increase the risk of flooding; that it could disrupt the surrounding ecology; and that the wall prototypes so far are "nearly impossible to build or don't actually do the job," citing an article from Engineering.com.
Trump has demanded Congress hand over more than $5 billion to fund the unpopular wall, and even sought $25 billion for it at one point.
But when all is said and done, Patrick estimates the wall could be as "higher than $50 billion" and won't even be finished in the president's lifetime due to "rework, complexities beyond the prototype design, factors to prevent flood and environmental hazard creation, engineering redesign" and other complications.
The structural forensicist is certain that the project "WILL go wrong" and noted that others in her field might not even want to work on the controversial project, as "a large quotient of us are immigrants, and besides, we can't afford to bid on jobs that are this political."
"We're small firms, and we're already busy, and we don't gamble our reputations on political footballs. So you'd end up with a revolving door of contractors making a giant, uncoordinated muddle of things, and it'd generally be a mess. Good money after bad. The GAO agrees with me," she said.
Further, she argues that the wall "won't be effective" and could, right now, easily scale it with a 32-foot extension ladder and a cheap custom saddle.
"Another thing: we are not far from the day where inexpensive drones will be able to pick up and carry someone," Patrick wrote. "This will happen in the next ten years, and it's folly to think that the coyotes who ferry people over the border won't purchase or create them. They're low enough, quiet enough, and small enough to quickly zip people over any wall we could build undetected with our current monitoring setup."
Patrick is not alone in her derision of Trump's pet project. Most voters remain are strongly opposed to a wall on the Mexican border, according to a Quinnipiac poll released Monday, with 55 percent saying that they reject every argument for the wall.
Opponents also worry that the wall will dissect a border tribe, degrade the natural landscape and threaten 93 endangered and threatened species, including jaguars, ocelots, Mexican gray wolves and cactus ferruginous pygmy owls, according a study from the Center for Biological Diversity.
"Let's have border security, by all means, but let's be smart about it. This is not smart. It's not effective. It's NOT cheap," Patrick concluded. "The returns will be diminishing as technology advances, too. This is a ridiculous idea that will never be successfully executed and, as such, would be a monumental waste of money."
What Will It Take to Stop Trump From Bulldozing Most Diverse Butterfly Center for Border Wall Section Already Funde… https://t.co/YoZlEVFCgb— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1545428786.0
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The speed and scale of the response to COVID-19 by governments, businesses and individuals seems to provide hope that we can react to the climate change crisis in a similarly decisive manner - but history tells us that humans do not react to slow-moving and distant threats.
A Game of Jenga<p>Think of it as a game of Jenga and the planet's climate system as the tower. For generations, we have been slowly removing blocks. But at some point, we will remove a pivotal block, such as the collapse of one of the major global ocean circulation systems, for example the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), that will cause all or part of the global climate system to fall into a planetary emergency.</p><p>But worse still, it could cause runaway damage: Where the tipping points form a domino-like cascade, where breaching one triggers breaches of others, creating an unstoppable shift to a radically and swiftly changing climate.</p><p>One of the most concerning tipping points is mass methane release. Methane can be found in deep freeze storage within permafrost and at the bottom of the deepest oceans in the form of methane hydrates. But rising sea and air temperatures are beginning to thaw these stores of methane.</p><p>This would release a powerful greenhouse gas into the atmosphere, 30-times more potent than carbon dioxide as a global warming agent. This would drastically increase temperatures and rush us towards the breach of other tipping points.</p><p>This could include the acceleration of ice thaw on all three of the globe's large, land-based ice sheets – Greenland, West Antarctica and the Wilkes Basin in East Antarctica. The potential collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet is seen as a key tipping point, as its loss could eventually <a href="https://science.sciencemag.org/content/324/5929/901" target="_blank">raise global sea levels by 3.3 meters</a> with important regional variations.</p><p>More than that, we would be on the irreversible path to full land-ice melt, causing sea levels to rise by up to 30 meters, roughly at the rate of two meters per century, or maybe faster. Just look at the raised beaches around the world, at the last high stand of global sea level, at the end of the Pleistocene period around 120,0000 years ago, to see the evidence of such a warm world, which was just 2°C warmer than the present day.</p>
Cutting Off Circulation<p>As well as devastating low-lying and coastal areas around the world, melting polar ice could set off another tipping point: a disablement to the AMOC.</p><p>This circulation system drives a northward flow of warm, salty water on the upper layers of the ocean from the tropics to the northeast Atlantic region, and a southward flow of cold water deep in the ocean.</p><p>The ocean conveyor belt has a major effect on the climate, seasonal cycles and temperature in western and northern Europe. It means the region is warmer than other areas of similar latitude.</p><p>But melting ice from the Greenland ice sheet could threaten the AMOC system. It would dilute the salty sea water in the north Atlantic, making the water lighter and less able or unable to sink. This would slow the engine that drives this ocean circulation.</p><p><a href="https://www.carbonbrief.org/atlantic-conveyor-belt-has-slowed-15-per-cent-since-mid-twentieth-century" target="_blank">Recent research</a> suggests the AMOC has already weakened by around 15% since the middle of the 20th century. If this continues, it could have a major impact on the climate of the northern hemisphere, but particularly Europe. It may even lead to the <a href="https://ore.exeter.ac.uk/repository/handle/10871/39731?show=full" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cessation of arable farming</a> in the UK, for instance.</p><p>It may also reduce rainfall over the Amazon basin, impact the monsoon systems in Asia and, by bringing warm waters into the Southern Ocean, further destabilize ice in Antarctica and accelerate global sea level rise.</p>
The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation has a major effect on the climate. Praetorius (2018)
Is it Time to Declare a Climate Emergency?<p>At what stage, and at what rise in global temperatures, will these tipping points be reached? No one is entirely sure. It may take centuries, millennia or it could be imminent.</p><p>But as COVID-19 taught us, we need to prepare for the expected. We were aware of the risk of a pandemic. We also knew that we were not sufficiently prepared. But we didn't act in a meaningful manner. Thankfully, we have been able to fast-track the production of vaccines to combat COVID-19. But there is no vaccine for climate change once we have passed these tipping points.</p><p><a href="https://www.weforum.org/reports/the-global-risks-report-2021" target="_blank">We need to act now on our climate</a>. Act like these tipping points are imminent. And stop thinking of climate change as a slow-moving, long-term threat that enables us to kick the problem down the road and let future generations deal with it. We must take immediate action to reduce global warming and fulfill our commitments to the <a href="https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Paris Agreement</a>, and build resilience with these tipping points in mind.</p><p>We need to plan now to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, but we also need to plan for the impacts, such as the ability to feed everyone on the planet, develop plans to manage flood risk, as well as manage the social and geopolitical impacts of human migrations that will be a consequence of fight or flight decisions.</p><p>Breaching these tipping points would be cataclysmic and potentially far more devastating than COVID-19. Some may not enjoy hearing these messages, or consider them to be in the realm of science fiction. But if it injects a sense of urgency to make us respond to climate change like we have done to the pandemic, then we must talk more about what has happened before and will happen again.</p><p>Otherwise we will continue playing Jenga with our planet. And ultimately, there will only be one loser – us.</p>
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