Infrastructure

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Source: UN Sustainable Development Goals

Civil engineers and urban and regional planners are concerned with how changes in climate will affect the construction and maintenance of hard infrastructure. Infrastructure planning can occur at varied spatial scales; projects can range from regional rail systems to a single building. Accordingly, climate projections from regional to local scales may be relevant to infrastructure adaptation. Tradeoffs between spatial precision and the increase in uncertainty in downscaled models should be considered by sectoral practitioners.

Sea level rise and changes in the intensity of rainfall can increase the probability of flooding over bridges and roads. Builders should consider sea level rise, storm surge, and changes in flow regimes when determining the height and pitch of bridges that cross coastal waterways. Further inland, an expected increase in precipitation intensity should be considered. With heavier rainstorms, flash flooding is expected to occur more often. Unpaved roads are particularly vulnerable to increasingly intense precipitation, which can result in washout. Changes in flood patterns are also affected by other sectors. For example, coastal erosion and water management policies can affect flow regimes and hence the vulnerability of infrastructure projects to flooding. In addition to climate information, infrastructure managers will likely require input from other relevant sectors.

Construction of new buildings and retrofitting of existing structures should also consider the impacts of increased temperatures. Increases in temperature and humidity will require more airflow within buildings, which may necessitate improvements to fans or air-conditioning systems. Climate change can also affect the weathering of infrastructure. At higher temperatures transportation infrastructure softens and expands, which can cause permanent structural damage. Salt water incursion can also enhance weathering of both transportation infrastructure and buildings, leading to higher maintenance costs.

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