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Climate Change May Lead To Transportation Overhaul

March 17, 2008 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 86, Issue 11

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, a construction and engineering design firm. 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 not only will affect the facilities themselves, he stressed, but also will require modification of the 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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