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March 12, 2008


Climate Change May Lead To Transportation Overhaul

National Research Council report stresses need to modify transportation systems

Jeff Johnson

Movement of people, products, and materials will be greatly affected by climate change in the near future, but transportation professionals have not adapted their planning to reflect that impact, according to a new study by the National Research Council.

The study predicts that a rise in sea level, higher temperatures, greater hurricane intensity, heavier rains, and more frequent flooding are likely to come about due to climate change. The costs to modify transportation systems in accordance with these projected changes could be huge, reaching tens of billion of dollars, said Henry G. Schwartz Jr., NRC panel chairman and past president and chairman of Sverdrup/Jacobs Civil Inc., a construction and engineering design firm. However, the sooner new designs are adopted and deployed, the more money will be saved, he stressed.

"The time has come for transportation professionals to acknowledge and confront the challenges posed by climate change and to incorporate the most current scientific knowledge into the planning of transportation systems," he said.

Planners can no longer use historic weather data to predict future transportation designs, he said, and hence must modify their design parameters.

"The next 25 to 50 or more years may be very different than those of the past," Schwartz said. "The one-in-a-100-year storm may become the one-in-50-year storm."

Although the report was limited to transportation, Schwartz noted that its implications are massive for chemical companies and refineries, whose products, he said, are vital to the U.S. economy. He underscored the likely impact at ports and coastal areas, where many refineries and chemical plants are located, saying that seven of the nation???s largest ports are along the Gulf of Mexico.

A changing climate will affect not only the facilities themselves, he stressed, but will also require modification of transportation systems that move raw materials and chemical products to and from a plant, including pipelines, ships, and rail and truck lines.

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Chemical & Engineering News
ISSN 0009-2347
Copyright © 2009 American Chemical Society


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