Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Time to begin anticipating and adapting to climate change

Date:
August 22, 2011
Source:
Vanderbilt University
Summary:
Despite the uncertainties surrounding climate change, leaders in the transportation sector agree it is time to start developing effective strategies that will keep the nation's transportation systems and other critical infrastructure running in the face of the adverse impacts that seem increasingly likely to occur.

Despite the uncertainties surrounding climate change, it is time to start developing effective strategies that will keep the nation's transportation systems and other critical infrastructure running in the face of the adverse impacts that seem increasingly likely to occur.

Related Articles


This consensus emerged from a two-day leadership summit that brought together major stakeholders from the $1 trillion-plus freight transportation sector with climate change researchers to discuss the issue for the first time. The meeting was held in June at Vanderbilt University and was sponsored by the Vanderbilt Center for Transportation Research (VECTOR), Vanderbilt Institute for Energy and Environment (VIEE) and the University of Memphis' Intermodal Freight Transportation Institute.

"It is increasingly clear that climate change will have potentially large impacts on the nation's highways, railroads, waterways, airports and pipelines. In all likelihood, these impacts will increase in the future, so we have to learn how to plan ahead," said George Hornberger, director of VIEE and distinguished professor of civil and environmental engineering.

Weather-related damage to nation's infrastructure on the rise

According to the University Center for Atmospheric Research, more than 75 percent of natural disasters are triggered directly or indirectly by weather and climate. In the U.S., more than a quarter of our gross national product (+$2 trillion) is sensitive to weather and climate events, which affect our health, safety, economy, environment, transportation systems and national security. Each year, the U.S. sustains billions of dollars in weather-related damages caused by hurricanes, tornadoes, forest fires, flooding, heavy snows and drought. The threats associated with extreme weather and climate change are substantial and adapting to climate change will be crucial to economic and social stability, for example by making future water, food and energy supplies reliable and sustainable. Contributing to these costs is the problem of the nation's aging infrastructure, which needs $2.2 trillion in improvements to meet today's demands, according to the 2009 National Infrastructure Report Card by the American Society of Civil Engineers.

Unless the nation begins taking appropriate measures, these costs are likely to increase: "It appears to us that more extreme weather events -- like floods and hurricanes -- are becoming more frequent and pronounced and we need to be prepared to adapt to the prospect that what have been episodic events in the past become chronic features of our operational landscape in the future," observed Craig Philip, Chief Executive Officer of the Ingram Barge Company and a member of the conference steering committee.

The Mississippi River floods in April and May, which were among the largest and most damaging recorded along the waterway in the past century, the flooding on the Missouri that began in June and the above-average wildfire season that burned 1.3 million acres in the month of June in the Southern Plains and Southwest, are dramatic examples of the kinds of natural disasters that experts predict will become increasingly severe and frequent.

"Right now people are waking up to the fact that they will have to adapt, but very few are walking the walk," commented Mark Abkowitz, co-organizer of the meeting and professor of engineering management at Vanderbilt. "If we're not careful and begin taking actions soon, we will fall so far behind that playing catch-up will be difficult."

Reasons for current lack of action

The summit discussions identified several reasons for the current lack of action: 1) uncertainty in the timing and magnitude of climate change; 2) insufficient knowledge of how these changes will impact the performance of critical infrastructure systems; 3) the succession of short-term crises that deflect attention and resources; and, 4) lack of political leadership.

So far, the federal government has focused almost exclusively on mitigation: developing methods that reduce the amount of carbon dioxide released in various industrial processes or sequestering carbon deep underground.

"Regardless of the success of mitigation efforts, we will need to adapt. Even if we could completely stop injecting more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, the concentration of carbon dioxide is already significantly higher than historic levels so we would still have to handle the consequences," said Hornberger. Key initiatives for next five years Summit delegates identified several key initiatives that should be undertaken in the next five years:

  • Identify the critical infrastructure that is most vulnerable to damage and disruption. Of particular importance are bridges, highways, rail lines, airports and other key transportation facilities for which there are no alternatives;
  • Assess the cost of impacts to key infrastructure components. Putting a dollar sign on the potential damage for non-action helps determine the benefits of the proposed protective measures;
  • Develop better tools and models for performing risk assessments. Right now the climate models are more accurate at the global and regional scale, but they are not capable of predicting the local effects that planners need;
  • Define and communicate climate change problems in terms that decision makers can understand;
  • Improve dialogue and collaboration among stakeholders.

"There is no reason why we should wait to get started down this path," said Abkowitz. "As long as our approach remains flexible, we can adapt as better information becomes available."

Videos of the plenary sessions of the meeting can be viewed on the Vanderbilt School of Engineering's website at http://engineering.vanderbilt.edu/CivilAndEnvironmentalEngineering/News/PodcastsVideos.aspx


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Vanderbilt University. The original article was written by David Salisbury. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Vanderbilt University. "Time to begin anticipating and adapting to climate change." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 22 August 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/08/110822092321.htm>.
Vanderbilt University. (2011, August 22). Time to begin anticipating and adapting to climate change. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/08/110822092321.htm
Vanderbilt University. "Time to begin anticipating and adapting to climate change." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/08/110822092321.htm (accessed December 22, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Earth & Climate News

Monday, December 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

New Fish Species Discovered, Setting Record for World's Deepest

New Fish Species Discovered, Setting Record for World's Deepest

Buzz60 (Dec. 22, 2014) A new species of fish is discovered living five miles beneath the ocean surface, making it the deepest living fish on earth. Jen Markham has the story. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Lava Inches Closer to Highway

Raw: Lava Inches Closer to Highway

AP (Dec. 21, 2014) Officials have opened a new road on Hawaii's Big Island for drivers to take care of their daily needs if encroaching lava from Kilauea Volcano crosses a highway and cuts them off from the rest of the island. (Dec. 20) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Cheap Oil Help Fix U.S. Roads?

Could Cheap Oil Help Fix U.S. Roads?

Newsy (Dec. 21, 2014) As falling oil prices boost Americans' spending power, the U.S. government is also gaining flexibility from savings on oil. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Russian Surfers Brave Icy Cold Waters

Raw: Russian Surfers Brave Icy Cold Waters

AP (Dec. 20, 2014) Surfers in Russia's biggest port city on the Pacific Ocean, Vladivostok, were enjoying the sport on Saturday despite below freezing temperatures and icy cold waters. (Dec. 20) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins