DOT Climate Adaptation and Mitigation Workshop, February 25-26th

The Department of Transportation (DOT) recently held a workshop on adaptation and mitigation of climate change, in relation to the transportation sector. The workshop had a plethora of great panelists, including Victor Mendez, Deputy Secretary, DOT; Mohan Gupta, Assistant Chief Scientist, FAA; and Andrea Freeburg, Environmental Protection Specialist, FAA. The conference delved into the challenges facing policy makers in adapting to climate realities, like sea-level rise and the increasing frequency of storm surge from hurricanes, to mitigating GHG emissions directly. The workshop featured federal, state, and local government experts, scientists, academia, as well as industry executives in a wide range of fields, including sustainability, environmental policy, engineering, research, and  development.

On the first day, FAA addressed its commitment to researching and adapting to the increased severity of climate events. Andrea Freeburg in FAA’s Office of Environment and Energy (AEE) spoke about some specific FAA initiatives within the DOT’s Climate Adaptation Plan. She went over the FAA’s Superstorm Sandy Case Study, which analyzed the impacts of the hurricane on FAA equipment and infrastructure, by both compiling FAA data and interviewing airport employees who responded to the event on the ground. The report raised questions on the challenges airports face in preparing for, and responding to a storm. In specific, the most important challenges to FAA and to airports include inaccessibility, commercial power outages, access to generators and fuel, decontamination requirements, and the overall volume of resource need. The potential next steps of the report will delve into the consideration of infrastructure impacts to airport assets, operation impacts to airport traffic, airports, and air carriers, and overall climate impacts in a general sense.  Andrea also mentioned the FAA’s Common Support System – Weather (CSS- WX), which will provide a single source of timely, and in-depth weather-related information. The system will compile data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) NextGen Web Services, the NextGen Weather Processor (NWP), other FAA weather sources, and non-FAA sources, and effectively relay this data to the FAA’s Air Traffic Organization (ATO), commercial aviation, general aviation, and other federal agencies. 

In regards to climate mitigation, Mohan Gupta, Assistant Chief Scientist of the FAA, spoke about FAA’s vision for the near term future. The FAA has set an ambitious goal of carbon neutral growth in the commercial aviation industry by 2020 (based on 2005 emissions levels). Mr. Gupta explained that in order to reach this figure in a growing industry, the FAA has created a five pillar approach: improved scientific knowledge and integrated modeling, new aircraft technologies, sustainable aviation fuels, air traffic management modernization and operational improvements, and overarching policies, environmental standards, and market based measures. In specific, he focused on a few initiatives the FAA had started already, including CLEEN (Continuous Lower Energy, Emissions and Noise), and the second phase, CLEEN II. Both programs provide R&D funding to focus on reducing aircraft fuel burn, emissions and noise through technology and advance alternative jet fuels. He also mentioned the work of CAAFI, or the Commercial Aviation Alternative Fuels Initiative to advance sustainable, alternative aviation fuels – which is sponsored by ACI-NA (in addition to FAA, A4A and AIA). CAAFI is helping advance sustainability in aviation fuels, by partnering with airlines, aircraft and engine manufacturers, energy producers, researchers, international participants and U.S. government agencies.


Click here to view the Workshop agenda