National Academies Press: OpenBook

Airport Climate Adaptation and Resilience (2012)

Chapter: Chapter Five - Conclusions

« Previous: Chapter Four - Climate Risks and Adaptation and Resilience and Activities
Page 45
Suggested Citation:"Chapter Five - Conclusions." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2012. Airport Climate Adaptation and Resilience. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/22773.
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Page 45
Page 46
Suggested Citation:"Chapter Five - Conclusions." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2012. Airport Climate Adaptation and Resilience. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/22773.
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Page 46

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46 OBservatiOns and Findings The objective of this Synthesis report was to identify the risks to airports from climate change and to survey activi- ties used in addressing such risks. Research indicates that climate change will affect airports in multiple and diverse ways, involving impacts to physical infrastructure, business costs and opportunities, new financial considerations, and increased security challenges. However, there is currently little information available on climate change adaptation at U.S. airports. Airports share many attributes with other transportation sectors. They also have diverse sets of assets with varied ownership status and life cycles, and also experience the effect of climate change nationally, even globally. They are dynamic communities that have complex business and social roles and responsibilities that can be affected by adaptation planning occurring outside their immediate purview and infrastructure. Despite interdependencies with other interests and ser- vices, surveyed airports did not address questions about their intermodal links and local climate impacts as readily as they projected their own climate risks, although airport opera- tions are reliant on these local links to effectively meet their mission. Regarding projected impacts, there have been some adaptation projects directly addressing climate risk at air- ports. These include practical efforts conducted at a technical level such as design criteria for a specific project and par- ticipation in more strategic planning processes. Generally, however, airports have just begun to consider the formal integration of climate impacts into planning processes. The U.K. government’s experience with its adaptation reporting requirement is a promising area for a comparative view. Key drivers for addressing climate risk at airports were: • Severe weather events and related costs • Awareness raised from sustainability and greenhouse gas mitigation activities • Model adaptation guidance prepared by a professional society in a technical field • Executive leaders serving as advocate • Internal organizational champions serving as advocate • Professional judgment of staff • Participation in state, regional, and local adaptation planning efforts • Federal grants and planning frameworks. Other drivers in the United States are insurance and bond- ing requirements. Actual adaptation projects can be oppor- tunistic, with climate change sometimes as an ancillary or secondary consideration; that said, the cases studied indi- cated there was sound technical appraisal of climate change aspects. A barrier to coordinated planning with other transporta- tion sector partners includes the quasi-independent status of airports. In the absence of a high-level executive or other internal champion advocating for consideration of climate change impacts, there is no hard driver within an airport’s governance structure, as there can be, for example, within a state department of transportation under the direct manage- ment control of a governor. It is important for an asset- and infrastructure-focused sector such as aviation to concentrate on the distinctions among climate impacts, their respective time horizons, and datasets needed to assess impacts on assets and infrastruc- ture. For example, there are varying time frames in which projected climate change effects may become significant risks to an airport’s asset inventory. For that reason, a review and understanding of maintenance practices and timelines can help determine and/or project the degree of adaptation or resilience building needed. These observations and findings suggest that airports present a compelling case for closer review by the research community. Both their position as entities affected by varia- tions on weather and the sophisticated decisions they under- take daily indicate that airports hold a potential leadership role in climate change adaptation and resilience. KnOwledge gaps and suggestiOns FOr Further research Prior TRB suggestions noted in Special Report 299, and numbered here, provide a helpful framework for identifying knowledge gaps in the context of airport climate resilience and adaptation. chapter five cOnclusiOns

47 1. Transportation officials at all levels of government and in the private sector should inventory potentially vul- nerable critical assets. With the exception of a few airports involved in key studies, airports have not inventoried their critical assets in a strategic effort to address climate change. Many partners on site at an airport could play a part in this process. • Future research could provide guidance for invento- rying assets and activities at airports, including iden- tification of potential metrics and datasets that can support risk assessments and investment decisions. 2. Transportation officials should incorporate climate change into their long-range plans for new facilities and maintenance. The greatest extent of airport planning timelines is 20 years; however, airport infrastructure generally lasts 50 years. In addition, surveyed airports did not address questions about their intermodal links and local climate impacts as readily as they projected their own, although airport operations rely on these areas for success. Also, there are many identified and as yet unidentified data needs that will be relevant to an effort to conduct long-term planning. • Research might include a comprehensive review of climate impacts and risks to airports and all aspects of their facilities, operations and interdependencies related to passenger, cargo, and other air service activities. • Comparative research on how extreme weather and climate change can affect airports and methods for related risk management across different spatial, temporal, geographic, and geopolitical spheres may assist in the understanding of the uncertainty over where and when impacts will occur. – Research might include a synthesis of sea level rise modeling, storm surge, and coastal subsidence methodologies as relevant to how they would be used by airports and other coastal transportation infrastructure. This might be similar in scope and approach to the recent “Synthesis of Information on Projections of Change in Regional Climates and Recommendations of Analysis Regions” prepared for NCHRP. 3. Transportation officials should rely more on probabi- listic techniques to guide decisions that weigh the cost of upgrading or protecting assets against the risk and consequences of failure. There has been some work in developing climate risk assessment techniques for the transportation sec- tor, and some airports surveyed are prepared to address climate risk under existing risk practices. However, standard techniques are not in place that can suffi- ciently address uncertainties under climate change. • Applied research could review airport needs from data producers and data stewards in federal, state, tribal, and municipal agencies to support the identi- fication and collection of baseline and other data to support future decisions on climate risks. • Research could include a broader survey of airport adaptive capacity, focusing on the ability to address projected climate risks in the context of local and regional social, environmental, and economic needs and stressors. • Applied research could develop an annual report on relevant climate projections in a readable form, tai- lored to airport facility and operational concerns, as suggested by one respondent to the report’s survey. 4. Research programs should invest in developing mon- itoring technologies that can measure stresses and strains on key infrastructure assets and provide warn- ing of pending failures. There has been discussion of general technology needs in the literature; however, there has not been a comprehensive review and understanding of climate risks for airport facilities and operations with a view to the development of the technologies that could facili- tate a response at airports. • A research roadmap for the technologies that could be brought to bear on the anticipated risks to airport facilities and operations. 5. Transportation professional associations should develop procedures to identify and share best practices in man- aging assets. Research for this Synthesis confirms that profes- sional societies, especially those in engineering, have a significant role to play in developing champions with the requisite technical expertise to properly assess climate risks and options. However, in addition to engineers and planners at airports, the aviation indus- try has a variety of professionals that contribute to its functioning, and education and engagement by them may be useful as well. These conclusions suggest: • Research into the unique perspective of airport per- sonnel with respect to weather and climate and the ways to leverage their expertise and knowledge base with local partners seeking transportation sector leadership. • Review of all airport and aviation-related profes- sions and the standards and protocols to which they adhere, to develop understanding of entry points for climate change education and awareness raising.

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TRB’s Airport Cooperative Research Program (ACRP) Synthesis 33: Airport Climate Adaptation and Resilience reviews the range of risks to airports from projected climate change and the emerging approaches for handling them.

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