Adapting Transport to Climate Change and Extreme Weather

Implications for Infrastructure Owners and Network Managers

This report addresses the fundamental challenges that climate change poses to infrastructure owners, who face two major challenges. First, they must ensure continued asset performance under sometimes significantly modified climate conditions that may decrease the present value of their networks or increase maintenance and refurbishment costs. Second, they must build new assets in the context of changing and uncertain climate variables. This creates a risk of over- or under-specification of infrastructure design standards, potentially resulting in non-productive investments or network service degradation. This report investigates strategies that can help transport authorities contain network performance risks inherent in changing patterns of extreme weather.

Adapting Transport to Climate Change and Extreme Weather

Broad evidence indicates that man-made emissions of greenhouse gases are changing the climate, and many of the potential impacts of climate change on meteorological conditions can affect the performance of transport systems and the viability of transport infrastructure. Summer temperatures will increase and heat extremes will become more frequent and last longer. Winter temperatures will become milder but temperature amplitudes may increase and swings between sub-zero and above freezing point temperatures will occur more often. Warming of the Arctic regions will lead to deeper permafrost melting (and soil heaving) with loss of summer sea and land ice. Winters will see more precipitation in the Northern Hemisphere, and more of it will be rain.

Individual assets and groups of infrastructure elements are vulnerable to a number of climate and weather-related phenomena. This report will review the composition and life cycle of different transport infrastructure asset classes and will describe their exposure and vulnerability to disruption, damage and failure in light of climate-related factors. It will also provide an indicative overview of some of the potential costs faced by the transport sector as climate regimes evolve.

Prioritising dependable, robust and resilient network connectivity as the reference performance criteria for infrastructure adaptation policies ensures that these policies consistently enable and preserve the core benefits delivered by infrastructure assets. This report outlines how transport infrastructure owners and network managers can embed network access and connectivity performance into their asset management policies. This chapter also describes climate change adaptation frameworks for transport authorities and asset owners. It discusses, in essence, the question of “How to prepare to adapt?” Having a coherent framework for adaptation policies can go far to ensure that risks are highlighted, responsibilities allocated, interventions are prioritised and that strategic decisions are not overlooked.

Pages: 140

Source: ITF (2016), Adapting Transport to Climate Change and Extreme Weather: Implications for Infrastructure Owners and Network Managers, OECD Publishing, Paris.


  • Extreme events
  • Infrastructure
  • Transport

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