Friday, June 27th 10:30am - 12:30pm
Russell Senate Office Building Room 253
What aspects of the Gulf Coast transportation infrastructure, and New York City water infrastructure, are most vulnerable to climate changes in progress and anticipated? What specific manifestations of climate change are anticipated along the Gulf Coast and in NYC? How will people and ecosystems be affected by the impacts of climatic change on the transportation infrastructure in the Gulf region and on the water infrastructure in NYC? What are the ripple effects of these changes likely to be regionally? What options do people and governments have in coping with the suggested changes? How resilient are the Gulf Coast and NYC to anticipated climate changes?
Dr. Anthony Socci, Senior Science Fellow, American Meteorological Society
Michael J. Savonis, Air Quality Team Leader, Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), Washington, DC
Savonis PowerPoint HTML Version
Dr. Cynthia Rosenzweig, Senior Research Scientist, NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, Columbia University’s Earth Institute, New York City, NY
Rosenzweig PowerPoint HTML Version
Reports sited in presentation:
“The Potential Impacts of Climate Change and Variability on Transportation Systems and Infrastructure – The Gulf Coast Study, Phase I”
Synthesis and Assessment Product 4.7
Climate Change Science Program
DOT Center for Climate Change and Environmental Forecasting
Gulf Coast Transportation: Coping with the Future
Climate affects the design, construction, safety, operations, and maintenance of transportation infrastructure and systems. The prospect of a changing climate raises critical questions regarding how alterations in temperature, precipitation, storm events, and other aspects of the climate could affect the nation’s roads, airports, rail, transit systems, pipelines, ports, and waterways in the region of the U.S. central Gulf Coast between Galveston, Texas and Mobile, Alabama. This region contains multimodal transportation infrastructure that is critical to regional and national transportation services. More broadly, what happens in the Gulf region will no doubt, have ripple effects nationwide and internationally, as was evident in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina.
Historical trends and future climate scenarios were used to establish a context for examining the potential effects of climate change on all major transportation modes within the region. Climate changes anticipated during the next 50 to 100 years for the central Gulf Coast include warming temperatures, changes in precipitation patterns, and increased storm intensity. The warming of the oceans and decline of polar ice sheets is expected to accelerate the rate of sea level rise globally. The effects of sea level rise in most central Gulf Coast counties will be exacerbated by the sinking of the land surface, which is accounted for in this assessment.
Warming temperatures are likely to increase the costs of transportation construction, maintenance, and operations. More frequent extreme precipitation events may disrupt transportation networks with flooding and visibility problems. Relative sea level rise will make much of the existing infrastructure more prone to frequent or permanent inundation – 27 percent of the major roads, 9 percent of the rail lines, and 72 percent of the ports are built on land at or below 122 cm (4 feet) in elevation. Increased storm intensity may lead to increased service disruption and infrastructure damage: More than half of the area’s major highways (64 percent of Interstates; 57 percent of arterials), almost half of the rail miles, 29 airports, and virtually all of the ports are below 7 m (23 feet) in elevation and subject to flooding and possible damage due to hurricane storm surge. Consideration of these factors in today’s transportation decisions and planning processes should lead to a more robust, resilient, and cost-effective transportation network in the coming decades.
New York City: Preparing for Climate Change
New York City (NYC) represents one of the ﬁrst substantial efforts to undertake climate-change planning for infrastructure changes in a large urban area. Notable characteristics of the NYC system are that it is a mature infrastructure system, that its managers are skilled at dealing with existing hydrologic variability, and that there are many potential adaptations to the risk of climate change in the NYC water supply, sewer, and wastewater treatment systems. Capitalizing on this expertise and experience, the work of the Climate Change Task Force of the NYC Department of Environmental Protection, has focused on the water supply, sewer, and wastewater treatment systems of NYC.
The Task Force included representatives from all of the operating and planning bureaus in NYCDEP along with experts from Columbia University’s Center for Climate Systems Research (CCSR) and other universities and engineering firms. A key element of the process was that it was agency-wide, allowing the development of an integrated climate change program throughout the entire organization. The agency-wide approach provides organizational benefits even beyond climate change planning in fostering communication among bureaus within the agency.
As part of the Task Force, agency, private-sector partners, and climate scientists developed climate information and adaptation assessment frameworks. The climate information framework consists of current and historical climate observations, downscaled climate change scenarios from global and regional climate models, projections of how risks of extreme events (including hurricanes, nor’-easters, heat waves, droughts, and floods may change), and focused analyses of sea-level rise and storm surges, including recent ice-sheet melting.
The major product of the NYCDEP Task Force is a Climate Change Assessment and Action Plan for the agency. The Agency will continue to work with climate scientists to improve regional climate change projections, enhance DEP’s understanding of the potential impacts of climate change on the Department’s operations, determine and implement appropriate adaptation to DEP’s water systems, and inventory and manage greenhouse gas emissions. Establishing climate indicators is important to provide mechanisms for tracking the dynamics of a changing climate.
Michael J. Savonis has 25 years of experience in transportation policy, with extensive expertise in air quality and emerging environmental issues. He has served as Air Quality Team Leader at the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), since 1996. For the past 16 years, Mr. Savonis has overseen the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program which invests more than $1.5 billion annually to improve air quality. He directs FHWA’s transportation / air quality policy development, research program, and public education. He received DOT’s Silver Medal in 1997 and FHWA’s Superior Achievement Award in 2004.
Mr. Savonis was instrumental to the creation of the DOT Center for Climate Change. He is co-Chair of the Transportation Research Board’s Climate Change Subcommittee, was a member of the Air Quality Committee 1999 - 2004, and served as Chair of the Subcommittee on Transportation Control Measures, 2000 - 2004. He is author of several papers on climate/air quality, including: The Gulf Coast Study, Synthesis and Assessment Product 4.7, Climate Change Science Program; Toward a Strategic Plan for Transportation Air Quality Research, 2000-2010, Transportation Research Record; and Clean Air Through Transportation: Challenges in Meeting the National Ambient Air Quality Standards, Report to Congress. Mr. Savonis holds a Master’s Degree in Regional Planning from Cornell University and a BS in Chemistry from the State University of New York at Buffalo.
Dr. Cynthia Rosenzweig is a Senior Research Scientist at the Goddard Institute for Space Studies at Columbia University. Her primary research involves the development of interdisciplinary methodologies by which to assess the potential impacts of and adaptations to global environmental change. She has joined impact models with global and regional climate models to predict future outcomes of both land-based and urban systems under altered climate conditions. Advances include the development of climate change scenarios for impact and adaptation analysis, and the application of impact models at relevant spatial and temporal scales for regional and national assessments. Recognizing that the complex interactions engendered by global environmental change can best be understood by coordinated teams of experts, Dr. Rosenzweig has organized and led large-scale interdisciplinary, national, and international studies of climate change impacts and adaptation. She co-led the Metropolitan East Coast Regional Assessment of the U.S. National Assessment of the Potential Consequences of Climate Variability and Change, sponsored by the U.S. Global Change Research Program, and was the lead scientist on the New York City Department of Environmental Protection Climate Change Task Force.
For the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fourth Assessment Report, she was a Coordinating Lead Author on the Assessment of Observed Changes and Responses in Natural and Managed Systems. The results of this Assessment found that physical and biological systems on all continents and in most oceans are already being affected by recent human-caused climate changes, and that climatic effects on human systems are emerging. She is a recipient of the Guggenheim Fellowship and is a Fellow of American Association for the Advancement of Science. She leads the Climate Impacts research group at the Goddard Institute of Space Studies, whose mission is to investigate the interactions of climate (both variability and change) on systems and sectors important to human well-being.
Dr. Rosenzweig received her Ph.D. in Plant, Soil, and Environmental Sciences from the University of Massachusetts in 1991. She earned an M.S. in Soils and Crops from Rutgers University and a BA in Agricultural Sciences from Cook College. She has authored or co-authored over 80 peer-reviewed scientific articles and authored or edited eight books.
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