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Briefing sheet

Transport Briefing Sheet: adaptation for climate change risks

30 August 2011

This briefing report describes the challenges facing civil engineers and transportation professionals charged with the planning, design, construction and maintenance of out long-term transport infrastructure in changing climatic conditions.

Transport Briefing Sheet: adaptation for climate change risks
How extreme weather conditions can impact upon essential transport infrastructure.


The delivery of long-term sustainable transport infrastructure will be one of the major challenges which transport engineering professionals face in a changing climate.

For transportation professionals the increase in the demand for transport and pressure to develop 'clean' methods of transportation, represent major challenges at a time when the reality of climate change is generally no longer questioned. Essential infrastructure, which enables safe and reliable use of road, rail and air travel, is clearly vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

How can civil engineers combat changes in climate and shock weather events?

The challenge for transport professionals is to provide effective technical proposals for mitigation, as well as resilient and appropriate adaptation solutions to the impacts of climate change.

With this challenge will also come the responsibility to ensure that the solutions offered, balance the risks for the economy, the environment, and the wider social implications, while remaining sustainable for future generations. Relevant design standards based on historical climate data only are no longer appropriate and will need to integrate future forecast changes in the climate. This will be essential to ensure that the transport infrastructure level of service will be maintained in the changed climate.

What are the consequences of inaction by the profession?

What is at stake is not only to ensure that infrastructure, useful life and safety is maintained, but also to access insurance, project finance, and to recognise that climate change adaptation may also avoid costly legal liabilities.

This introductory briefing report provides an overview of Climate Change impact and implications for transport professionals, including commentary and information on:

ICE is committed to helping civil engineers understand how a changing climate can impact upon the way we have traditionally designed infrastructure, and guide them toward designing alternative resilient solutions.

  • Climate change implications
  • UK Government policy, strategy and requirements on transport professionals
  • UK Climate change adaptation measures
  • Local climate change adaptation measures
  • Attitudes to climate change and transport choices
  • Producing climate change risk assessments
  • Conclusions for the way forward
  • John Parry, former climate task force member at ICE