Perspectives on Business and Economics, Vol. 40

84 ensure that infrastructure is functioning and safe. Currently, expensive strategies are being used for maintenance and operations, with costs that are only going to increase as the degree of damage becomes more severe with the warming trend. In the past, there have been cases when permafrost has been substituted with gravel as an option to deal with the damage. When permafrost thaw leaves the foundation of a building or a bridge vulnerable, the affected area can be filled with gravel, which prevents further damage. However, this is not a logistically viable option for starting a new project because of the immense scale. Other technology, such as thermosyphons, used by TAPS, could help keep the ground frozen near critical infrastructure. However, thermosyphons are not economically viable or accessible for most projects due to the upfront costs. Climate change is a long and somewhat slow process, and, as emissions rise in the world, the rate of climate change is estimated to increase, which in turn increases the pace of permafrost thaw. As older infrastructure is upgraded, proactive adaptations to permafrost thaw must be considered. Adjustments require a better understanding of the thresholds of risks in current systems that accounts for dramatic changes in land use and the ecosystem over the past several decades. Doing so will allow new approaches to move beyond reactive approaches to face the impacts of climate change. Engineering solutions can mitigate the dangers that come with degrading permafrost, but the economic price might be an obstacle. More effort is needed to quantify the economic threat of permafrost loss to understand the scale of the problem. Studies and reports that effectively quantify all the costs and risks associated with damage to infrastructure due to permafrost are extremely limited. As thawing permafrost warrants improved infrastructure, it logically will add a challenge to local and national budget planning and utilization. Thus, it is necessary to quantify the potential impacts of permafrost thaw. Alaska should consider commissioning a special report, by engaging scientists, economists, and engineers to evaluate the costs associated with rehabilitating damaged infrastructure. All physical, social, economic, and environmental costs should be factored in, for an accurate estimate. More detailed surveys in high-risk regions will also help estimates (U.N. Environment Programme, 2012). Once at-risk structures have been identified through risk assessment and monitoring programs, creating a plan for updating older infrastructure can be done in a systematic manner, one that should address more urgent infrastructure systems right away. Policy-wise, upfront investment is needed to secure infrastructure against the effects of thawing permafrost. Developing local and state-level plans to overhaul engineering and building codes based on the reports will ensure that future structures are not threatened by permafrost. Initially high upfront investment to develop an adapted building system will pay off over the years when compared to the cost of repeated maintenance. A study was conducted by NAS to estimate the benefit of utilization of proactive adaptation. The study considered upfront investment and modification of infrastructure and concluded that no single improvement method for any infrastructure system would be cheaper than completely replacing the infrastructure. However, NAS still concluded that there was a $1.9B to $2.6B reduction in expenditures when proactive adaptation was modeled against damages without adaptation (Melvin et al., 2016). Innovative infrastructure technologies will be necessary to resolve the permafrost conundrum. Conclusion Alaska’s permafrost is currently changing, with all projections pointing to further increases in thawing over the coming years. Melting permafrost is structurally unsound and can damage the foundation of any structure built on it. The accelerating rate of permafrost thaw in recent years has already weakened existing infrastructure systems, a trend that will become only more pronounced with projected larger-scale melting. Alaska currently experiences high economic impacts due to permafrost degradation for early reconstruction and replacement of structures as well as collateral damages that can hamper the local economy. Potential catastrophic repercussions from an oil spill due to a pipeline breakdown or major urban disruptions of underground utilities, such as broken water and sewer lines, could have huge environmental