Summary Report: Workshops on Integrating Climate Change with Transportation Planning, October & November 2010
IV. Findings and Implications
This section synthesizes and distills the proceedings of the five workshops into key themes and issues. It includes an assessment of the common issues among them and an analysis of areas for potential follow-up by FHWA.
A. Assessment of Workshop Results
Although the five workshops were held in five different States and involved participants from DOTs, MPOs, and other stakeholder agencies, several issues or themes emerged that were shared across all or most of the events:
- Evolving Inter-Institutional Coordination: In all five of the workshops, participants from both DOTs and MPOs had only recently begun to design the approach for cooperative arrangements among local, regional, and State institutions by which they hoped to address climate change. Thus, each agency and its partners were working to define roles and responsibilities, establish guidelines for the climate change and transportation planning process and articulate inter-governmental communication protocols.
- Limited Data for Planning Applications: There is a perceived lack of directly applicable and accessible data regarding the impacts of climate change for use in transportation planning. In each of the workshops, participants repeatedly raised concerns regarding the difficultly they had experienced or believed they would experience in obtaining data adequate to answer questions about issues such as anticipated mean temperature changes, sea level rise, spread of invasive species, especially in regard to their specific geographic areas of interest. Participants said that the lack of such data could undermine the credibility of a planning process focused on prioritizing options for investing in transportation system adaptations to a changing climate's impacts.
- Need for Appropriate Climate Change Planning Tools: There is a need for improved tools and techniques available to DOTs and MPOs to help educate policy-makers, stakeholders and the public regarding the purpose and value of integrating climate change considerations into transportation planning. Participants in most of the workshops noted that one the biggest challenges they face is how to engage the public, stakeholder, and policy-makers in discussions of GHG mitigation options. The analytical tools and methods available to them, however, are not necessarily adequate to conduct the types of analyses and produce the information they need to make a credible and understandable case for transportation planning that explicitly considers climate change. In addition, participants in all of the workshops noted that because climate change is a "new" and evolving issue in the transportation planning arena, they need communication tools to more effectively engage the public (e.g., visualization).
- Limited Experience in Scenario Planning Related to Climate Change: Across the five workshops, agencies' experience in using scenario planning generally was quite varied. It was extremely limited with specific regard to scenario planning for climate change and transportation. Most participants had a general understanding of scenario planning concepts. The primary application of scenario-type planning to date among the workshop participants had been as a means of testing the VMT reductions associated with different land use and transportation strategies. However, there had been little use of scenario development and testing as a means of considering uncertainty and variability associated with planning assumptions or the magnitude and intensity of external factors (e.g., climate change). Many workshop participants expressed uncertainty regarding the process for creating such scenarios and how they could be applied in the established transportation planning process.
- Status of Planning for Climate Change Tied to State Policies and Framework: The experience to date of the DOTs and MPOs involved in the workshops demonstrated that the nature of a State's policies, regulations and laws pertaining to climate change are a primary driver of the progress and definition of a DOT's or MPO's climate change-related planning. For example, in Oregon, where the State legislature enacted a climate change planning law in 2009, the DOT and MPOs have been actively developing strategies for implementing the law's transportation and land use planning requirements. In Florida and Vermont, where no laws or requirements of this nature currently exist, the DOT and MPOs are attempting to determine the appropriate focus and extent of climate change-related planning, whether for GHG mitigation or impacts adaptation.
- Interest in Specific Climate Change Planning Needs Varies across Different DOTs and MPOs: The interest that the different DOTs and MPOs had in specific aspects of climate change planning was driven primarily by their individual circumstances and perceptions of the relative risks to their jurisdictions associated with these aspects. For example, the Florida DOT was primarily interested in planning for the State's transportation system to adapt to the impacts of sea level rise. In the other workshops, however, most participants were interested in addressing transportation-related GHG mitigation.
B. Suggested Areas for FHWA Focus
The proceedings and outcomes of the five workshops conducted for this project suggest several areas in which FHWA could provide beneficial follow-up and support to DOTs and MPOs pertaining to planning for climate change and transportation:
- Identify effective and efficient methods and approaches for considering climate change issues and impacts in the transportation planning process.
- Provide DOTs and MPOs with additional resources to adequately address climate change planning needs and requirements.
- Identify and provide technical tools and assistance for analyzing climate change issues, impacts, and options.
- Assist with identifying effective methods for communicating the science of climate change and associated planning issues and needs to policy-makers, stakeholders, and the public.
- Provide information and education on how to appropriately and effectively use scenario planning to accommodate uncertainty and variable external forces in State and metropolitan transportation planning, both in general and with regard to climate change specifically.