Future Federal Adaptation Efforts Could Better Support Local Infrastructure Decision Makers

Created: 10/17/2013 -

Abstract

The federal government invests billions of dollars annually in infrastructure, such as roads and bridges, facing increasing risks from climate change. Adaptation—defined as adjustments to natural or human systems in response to actual or expected climate change— can help manage these risks by making infrastructure more resilient.

GAO was asked to examine issues related to infrastructure decision making and climate change. This report examines (1) the impacts of climate change on roads and bridges, wastewater systems, and NASA centers; (2) the extent to which climate change is incorporated into infrastructure planning; (3) factors that enabled some decision makers to implement adaptive measures; and (4) federal efforts to address local adaptation needs, as well as potential opportunities for improvement.

GAO reviewed climate change assessments; analyzed relevant reports; interviewed stakeholders from professional associations and federal agencies; and visited infrastructure projects and interviewed local decision makers at seven sites where adaptive measures have been implemented.

GAO recommends, among other things, that a federal entity designated by the Executive Office of the President (EOP) work with agencies to identify for local infrastructure decision makers the best available climate-related information for planning, and also to update this information over time. Relevant EOP entities did not provide official comments, but instead provided technical comments, which GAO incorporated, as appropriate.

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Keywords

Type of Adaptation Action/Strategy
Infrastructure, Planning, and Development
Infrastructure retrofitting and improvements
Managed retreat of built infrastructure, relocation of people/communities
Make infrastructure resistant or resilient to climate change
Develop disaster preparedness plans and policies
Region
United States