KU News Release

March 3, 2010
Contact: Cody Howard, School of Engineering, (785) 864-2936

Expert on relationship between climate change, transportation to speak at KU

More Information

LAWRENCE — Flash floods wiping out highways. Extreme temperature swings damaging bridges. Rapidly changing global climate could soon have a major impact on all forms of transportation.

A leading expert in the challenges that lie ahead and the best ways to adapt roads, railways and drainage systems to those changes will speak this month at the University of Kansas.

Michael Meyer, professor of civil and environmental engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology, will present “Climate Change and Transportation: Cause and Effect Challenges,” from noon to 1 p.m. Wednesday, March 10, at the Gridiron Room in the Burge Union. The event is sponsored by KU’s Transportation Research Institute and the KU chapter of the Institute of Transportation Engineers.

“Whether it’s more frequent storms or sea level rise, we need to look at the overall transportation system, identify the areas the are vulnerable and look at what we need to do to adapt,” Meyer said.

In the Midwest, Meyer said, changes in precipitation and extreme temperature swings are among the biggest challenges.

“Strong storms can overwhelm culverts and drainage, and in terms of temperature, you need to make sure that materials can withstand them,” Meyer said. “We need to take a serious look at how we design things in the future.”

Meyer said that regardless of a person’s stance on global warming, there are real long-term issues to address regarding climate change and transportation.

“I’m not an alarmist, but it’s an issue that we should be looking at,” Meyer said. “I’m not saying drop everything we’re doing. But we need to take a comprehensive and circumspect look at what we need to do when things are very different.”

Transportation contributes to as much as 40 percent of the greenhouse gases associated with climate change, said Bob Honea, director of the Transportation Research Institute.

“We’re trying to highlight the role of transportation as the problem and solution of climate change issues,” Honea said. “We’re interested in getting people’s ideas about what can be done to mitigate future problems, and Dr. Meyer certainly has a good perspective on ways to improve our present transportation system.”

Meyer is the first of three speakers brought in this semester by the Transportation Research Institute to address climate change and transportation.

Richard Bradley, head of the energy efficiency and environment division at the International Energy Agency in Paris will speak on March 24. Stephen Schneider, author of “Science as a Contact Sport: Inside the Battle to Save Earth’s Climate,” has an address planned for May 3.

The University of Kansas is a major comprehensive research and teaching university. University Relations is the central public relations office for KU's Lawrence campus.

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