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Weathering Transportation Sector Climate Risks

CCAP and EESI are pleased to announce the release of our report , Climate Adaptation & Transportation: Identifying Information and Assistance Needs

At a time when transportation agencies are faced with failing infrastructure and major budgetary constraints, the transportation sector is bearing significant losses from recent extreme weather events. With the National Climate Assessment assessing impacts and adaptation progress in key sectors of the US economy – including transportation – it is timely to consider the needs of state and local transportation agencies as they start to adapt their practices to climate change and shifting trends in extreme weather.

The CCAP/EESI report presents the findings of a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)-funded workshop that brought together transportation and climate change experts from all levels of government, academia and non-profits to identify critical information and technical assistance needs on climate change adaptation.

Key workshop findings include:

  • Adaptation starts with determining how well infrastructure is adapted to current climate and weather conditions.
  • Transportation officials need improved tools for integrating climate and weather information into asset management and economic development decisions.
  • Information on local, non-climate factors – such as infrastructure elevation, state-of-repair, soil saturation and tide levels – is as important as climate science information.
  • The Federal government should enhance research on the costs and benefits of climate change preparedness measures.

Key recommendations for federal agencies include:

  • Update flood maps taking climate change scenarios into account.
  • Provide technical assistance to help transportation practitioners Ask the Climate Question when planning, siting, designing and constructing infrastructure.
  • Enhance research on the costs and benefits of climate change preparedness measures (economic, social, environmental).

Transportation practitioners need tools and methodologies for making decisions with imperfect data and perpetual uncertainty. The good news is that transportation experts already have much of the relevant experience needed to prepare for climate change impacts through their experience in hazard mitigation, emergency response, flood management, and land use planning. Thus, it is important for transportation practitioners to educate themselves on climate science, and to articulate their unique data and technical assistance needs.

Meeting participants took some solace in Mick Jagger’s lyrics, “You can’t always get what you want  – but if you try sometime, you just might find you get what you need.”  Data will never be perfect, but common-sense planning and strategic improvements and capacity building can go a long way.

The report and workshop presentations are available for download here: www.ccap.org/adaptation.html

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