Climate change could cripple world’s transport systems

March 13th, 2008 - 3:31 pm ICT by admin  

New York, March 13 (IANS) Climate change will practically cripple the world’s transportation systems by flooding roads, railroads, transit systems and airport runways in coastal areas, according to a new report. “Rising temperatures may trigger weather extremes and surprises, such as more rapid melting of the Arctic sea ice than projected,” said Henry Schwartz Jr., chairman of the US National Research Council (NRC), and the report’s author.

Though the impact of climate change will vary globally, it will be widespread and costly in human and economic terms - and will require significant changes in the planning, design, construction, operation, and maintenance of transportation systems, warned the NRC report.

The report noted that climate predictions used by transportation planners and engineers may no longer be reliable, given the changing face of new weather and climate extremes.

Infrastructure pushed beyond its limits can become stressed and fail, as seen with loss of the US 90 Bridge in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

“The time has come for transportation professionals (worldwide) to acknowledge and confront the challenges posed by climate change, and to incorporate the most current scientific knowledge into the planning of transportation systems,” said Schwartz.

“It is now possible to project climate changes for large sub continental regions, including eastern US, a scale better suited for considering regional and local transportation infrastructure,” he added.

The report identified five climate changes of particular importance to transportation: increases in very hot days and heat waves; increases in Arctic temperatures; rising sea levels; increases in intense precipitation events; and increases in hurricane intensity.

In addition to climate changes, there are a number of contributing factors that will likely lead to vulnerabilities in coastal-area transportation systems.

Population is projected to grow in coastal areas, which will boost demand for transportation infrastructure and increase the number of people and businesses potentially in harm’s way.

Besides, erosion and loss of wetlands have removed crucial buffer zones that once protected infrastructure, and thousands of miles of coastal highways are already exposed to periodic storm flooding.

“The highways that currently serve as evacuation routes and endure periodic flooding could be compromised with strong hurricanes and more intense precipitation, making some of these routes impassable.”

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