Jean-Paul Rodrigue (2017), New York:
Routledge, 440 pages.
Climate Change and the Adaptation of Transport
Authors: Dr. Adolf Ng and Dr. Jean-Paul Rodrigue
1. Expected Impacts of Climate Change
Climate change has been occurring through the world's
climatic history with cooling (e.g. Ice Ages) and warming
periods. However, there is a growing body of evidence
underlining that human activities, such as the emission of
greenhouse gases, are contributing to climate change. The
natural (physical) processes of climate change are thus being
compounded by anthropogenic factors leading to additional risks
and uncertainties. Predictions about the nature and extent of
climate change are complex, mainly due to due to the dynamics of
weather systems, and the most salient risks are:
provides crucial linkages along global supply chains and
communications. Hence, transport systems being
affected by climate changes, like rising water levels, extreme
weather conditions and rising temperatures, would bear
significant implications for the development and mobility prospects of regions around the world.
For instance, air transportation has become an important
support for long distance mobility. Climate change is likely
to increase atmospheric turbulences and thus make air
transportation more hazardous and more fuel could be spend
by planes while flying to avoid areas of high turbulences.
This could be particularly the case over the North Atlantic,
which is the world's most heavily used long distance air
Coastal areas are also vulnerable since 38% of the global population lives within 100
km from the coast with this share climbing to 44% for
distances up to 150 km. For some countries such as Japan,
Indonesia, the Philippines, Bangladesh or the Netherlands,
this share is much higher. For instance, 60% of the
population of China lives in coastal provinces. Furthermore, most of the world´s largest
urban agglomerations are in coastal area. Major coastal
cities are also equipped with significant
port infrastructure servicing hinterlands that depend on
port facilities to access global trade. Thus, there is little doubt that transport
infrastructures are highly vulnerable to the implications posed
by climate changes.
2. Adaptation versus Mitigation
The exact impacts of climate change, apart from rising
sea levels and flooding though storm surges, are still ambiguous. Thus,
they are highly diversified in terms of what will be
affected (e.g. airports, seaports, highways or inland ports) and how it will be affected. Indeed, such considerable differences exist
among regions due to specific local characteristics. Hence, each
region has its own set of vulnerabilities and risks, underlining
dealing with adaptation to climate change, apart from
international best practice, local conditions should not
be overlooked. Moreover, many impacts posed by climate changes on
transport infrastructures, like flooding, are gradual and
moderate compared to other aspects, like hurricanes. This posed the question on whether adaptation
of transport infrastructure to the risks of
climate change was really necessary, or at least, a priority.
For example, flooding are a regular occurrence among several of
the world's major river systems flowing through areas of high
economic activity, such as China (Yangtze system), the United
States (Mississippi system) and Western Europe (Rhine system). The impacts of climate changes on
transport infrastructure can be perceived as moderate, or implicit,
when compared to other priorities such as capacity and
were so far little, or even no, incentive for transport managers to
adapt to the potential challenges posed by climate change.
above problems are partly due to a lack of resources (not just
financial) to enable the effective implementation of solutions
(even partial) in tackling the implications posed by climate change by
transport infrastructures, particularly ports.
These include reliable assessments about the nature of the risks
and how to effectively adapt infrastructure and operations. Given
the scarcity of reliable information, there lies a serious
question on to what extent infrastructure managers and
decision-makers understand the issue and the risks involved, not to mention the
implementation of effective solutions. For example, among many
transport managers around the world, there is a
misunderstanding between the concepts of adaptation and
mitigation as they relate to climate change.
However, they are fundamentally different concepts.
According to the United Nations Framework Convention on
Climate Change (UNFCCC), adaptation to climate change is the
adjustment in natural or human systems in response to actual
or expected climatic stimuli or their effects, which
moderates harm or exploits beneficial opportunities. It is
different from mitigation, which is intervention to reduce
the sources or enhance the sinks of greenhouse gases. In the
current context where climate change appears to be
unavoidable, resources are better spent towards adaptation
or enhancing the resilience of transport infrastructure.
In general, transport infrastructures still clearly lack
organizational resilience in adapting to the implications
posed by climate change. This implies the
ability of an institution to adapt to the consequences of
(catastrophic) failure, including preparedness, protection,
response and recovery (see
Disasters). Given the diversified nature between
different regions around the world, adaptation is clearly highly
localized which does not only require best practices, but also
open and transparent information sharing, mutual-learning,
effective cooperation with local authorities, as well as the ability for managers to apply such best
practices in a local perspective. Also, support for research and
database building should be encouraged. This involves
comprehensively defining and understanding the implications of
climate changes, as well as the possible effective adaptation
approaches, thus minimizing misunderstanding and averting the
rather low social awareness on this critical issue.
- Rising sea levels. Both because of
an increase in the average sea water temperature and
releases from other water masses (e.g. ice caps),
evidence underlines an ongoing
rise in sea levels. This obviously presents risk for
coastal areas, particularly for coastal transport
- Increase in Arctic temperatures.
Because of the receding ice cover, this may provide
opportunities to shorten
shipping distances and to better access resources in
- Increase in intense precipitation events.
May impair air travel (e.g. turbulences) and damage transport
infrastructure through flooding.
- More frequent hurricanes. Increase
the risk of coastal infrastructure damage and failure.
- Heat waves. In addition to provide
stress on the human physiology, heat waves can impact
construction activity and may impair the integrity of