The economic benefits of adapting transport infrastructure to deal with effects of climate change outweigh the costs

NatCen carried out a Rapid Evidence Assessment into Climate Change Adaptation for transport infrastructure.
Flooded train track in the UK

About the study

Climate change is already creating risks for transport infrastructure. Extreme weather events - such as major storms, heavy precipitation, and heatwaves - can cause damage and disruption, and will only become more frequent. However, the costs of major works can be substantial. In order to robustly consider the costs and benefits of Climate Change Adaptation when planning and maintaining transport infrastructure, NatCen were commissioned to conduct a Rapid Evidence Assessment (REA) by the Department for Transport (DfT). An REA summarises the available research on a topic as comprehensively as possible, within the constraints of a compressed timetable. 


The Rapid Evidence Assessment found that the economics benefits of adaptation generally outweigh the costs. This does not mean every individual adaptation action was good value for money. The literature identified a very wide range of potential economic, social and environmental benefits to adapting transport infrastructure to the effects of climate change. Though difficult to quantify, the broader the view taken of the potential benefits of adaptation, the more clearly adaptation measures were found to be net beneficial. These benefits include avoiding immediate costs of repairs and accidents as well as avoiding wider economic costs such as serious delays. Beyond this, the REA found that there were several possible indirect benefits, such as increased employment levels. 


This study used a Rapid Evidence Assessment (REA) methodology. An REA helps to produce an understanding of the available research evidence on a policy issue, as comprehensive as possible, within the constraints of a given timetable. REAs follow rigorous and explicit methods for searching, screening, assessing and synthesising evidence, whilst making informed compromises on aspects of the systematic review process to deliver findings quickly. The REA involved academic texts and grey literature; the former being located through complex search strings and the latter through extensive web-site searches. The relevance of literature identified in the search was assessed against detailed eligibility criteria. 158 papers were identified that met the inclusion criteria, and 34 were selected for inclusion in the review using prioritisation principles.