Airports around the world are taking steps to protect their infrastructure from the impacts of climate change. As extreme weather events become more common, airports are relocating sensitive electrical equipment to rooftops to prevent flooding. Runways are being reinforced to withstand temperature swings, and air conditioning systems are being upgraded to handle heat waves. These changes are necessary as climate change poses a significant challenge to the aviation industry.
In New York, the $19 billion redevelopment of John F. Kennedy International Airport includes preparations for storm surges and coastal flooding. Electric substations are being moved to the roofs of buildings, and flood-control devices are being installed. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns JFK, LaGuardia, and Newark airports, is taking these measures to protect critical infrastructure from flooding.
In Alaska, melting permafrost is damaging runways, forcing airports to install insulation in the ground and flatten embankment slopes to stabilize the infrastructure. In Europe, airports like Amsterdam’s Schiphol are elevating runways and improving drainage systems to cope with intensifying rainfall. They are also incorporating heat-resistant surfaces and planting trees to combat rising temperatures.
The aviation industry has pledged to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050. However, the effects of climate change on airport infrastructure cannot be ignored. Rising sea levels alone could cost airports $57 billion by the end of the century. The urgency is mounting for airports to adapt and become more resilient to avoid damage to their operations in the future.
While climate-related upgrades can be costly, they are essential for the long-term viability of airports. As extreme weather events become more frequent, airports must invest in new materials and systems that can withstand a wide range of temperatures. Airports worldwide are prioritizing these upgrades and redesigns to ensure the safety and efficiency of their operations.
Overall, airports are taking proactive steps to combat the challenges posed by climate change. These measures not only protect critical infrastructure, but they also contribute to the overall goal of achieving sustainable and resilient operations in the aviation industry.
Source: Climate Risk Management report published in 2021 by Newcastle University and the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research in the U.K., Eurocontrol report in March.