The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has released its third assessment report on potential regional impacts of climate change in the U.S. The report indicates that the effects of changes in regional weather will not be uniform from place to place. Some regions will receive more moisture than historic averages, others less. Temperatures are projected to shift significantly, resulting in permanent alteration of ecosystems. Will these changes be sudden or gradual, benign or harmful, mild or catastrophic? There is no single or simple answer to these questions. However, we do surmise that the projected changes in the global climate, which in turn will mean changes in national and regional weather patterns, may have substantial effects on our transportation system. How might these effects demonstrate themselves? The effects on transportation depend to a great extent on how we use the land for various purposes. This paper looks at broad ranges of effects that might result from climatic change with regard to three types of land use activity - agriculture, industry and commerce, and residence. Then, it describes a range of transportation scenarios that might result from changes in land use that are prompted by a significant climate change. For every scenario and reaction to a scenario described in this paper, there are likely to be many alternatives that could lead to large or small changes in individual or societal behavior. The intent behind this paper is not to forecast or predict specific economic or sociological behavior. Rather, the intention is to present possible alternatives in a way that spurs discussion. Because weather by itself is extremely unlikely to instigate changes in human behavior, we must examine factors that derive from variations in climate and extrapolate these effects on daily behavior. For example, does a gradual evolution from dry plains to desert imply concentration or dispersion of residences? The answer may depend upon whether the vision of a Buckminster Fuller (Geodesic domes) or a Texas rancher leads the particular community. At root, the adaptation to any climatic shift depends upon the sum of individual economic decisions by all of the members of the affected community. Significant climate changes, in this context, are not the most extreme events that are commonly thought of as emblematic of global climate change - such as dramatic sea-level changes or expansions of deserts. Rather, this paper focuses on fairly subtle changes in regional climates - changes that can easily result from periodic anomalies in weather patterns regardless of their fundamental cause, but that may also be recognized as symptomatic of major changes in underlying weather patterns in coming years.


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  • Features: Figures; Photos;
  • Pagination: 8p

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  • Accession Number: 00962779
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Sep 3 2003 12:00AM