President Donald Trump’s plan for a southern border wall will cost billions of dollars and has already sparked a diplomatic rift with Mexico. It’s also going to be bad for the planet.
Concrete is a potent source of greenhouses gas, and Trump’s “great wall” will need a lot of it — more than double the amount in Hoover Dam, according to engineers at New York University and University College London.
A 1,000-mile (1,600-kilometer) wall would require an estimated 275 million cubic feet of concrete. It would release as much as 1.9 million metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, according to Christoph Meinrenken, an associate research scientist at Columbia University’s Earth Institute. That’s more than the annual emissions from every home in Pittsburgh.
“The carbon footprint of a wall that size would be huge,” Dan Millis, borderlands program coordinator for the Sierra Club’s Arizona chapter, said in an interview.
Trump’s executive order to build the wall comes as nations around the globe push to reduce greenhouse gases and meet goals set under the Paris Climate accord. Last year was the hottest on the record, with temperatures inching ever loser to the level scientists say would be catastrophic, according to the United Nations.
‘Not Building Walls’
The U.S. needs to invest in infrastructure and many worthwhile projects will require concrete, said Rachel Cleetus, lead economist and climate policy manager at the Union of Concerned Scientists. But those projects should be in line with the broader goal of fighting global warming.
“Let’s talk about modernizing electric grids — not building walls,’’ Cleetus said in an interview.