Transportation and climate change

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Sir: Transportation is a very important tool for the growth and development of any economy. National and international trade depends heavily on it. Transportation systems, depending on their efficiency, play a key role in environmental sustainability. Inefficient transport systems contribute to global warming and climate change due to unabated emissions of carbon from various means of transportation. Its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are driven by the ever-increasing demand for movement of persons and goods. Demands for transport services both for human beings, goods and services are expected to increase over the coming decades. Reducing emissions from the transport sector will be a daunting task given the inevitable increases in demand. Based on continuing current rates of growth for passengers and freight, and if adequate mitigation options are not implemented to overcome the challenges, emissions of green house gases from the transport sector will reach unimaginable heights. Transport sector contributes to climate change just like climate change also affects the transport sector.

Climate change has impact on road transportation. Increased temperatures can make pavements to soften and expand. This can create potholes especially in high traffic areas and can cause bridge joints to become stressed. These impacts can make construction and maintenance of roads and highways very expensive. Floods could also disrupt traffic, delay construction activities and weaken or wash out the soil and culverts that supports roads and bridges. Climate change has impacts on rail transport. High temperatures cause rail tracks to expand. More frequent and severe heat waves damage rail tracks leading to track repairs or speed restrictions to avoid derailing the train. Heavy rainfall could lead to delays and disruptions. Tropical storms can also flood or leave debris on railways, disrupting rail travel and freight transport.

Climate change also has impacts on marine transport. The depth of transport channel and extent of sea ice are factors that ships are sensitive to. Increasing temperatures could reduce the amount of sea ice in many important shipping lanes thereby disrupting the shipping season. Shipping lanes experiencing sea level rise will be able to accommodate larger ships, reducing shipping costs. However, higher sea levels will affect water way bridges. In inland waterways where water levels are expected to decline, ships could face weight restrictions, as channels become too shallow. Changes in rainfall pattern can affect shipping in many ways.

The Nigerian government is currently in the fight against climate change. It has a National Adaptation Strategy and Plan of Action for Climate Change in Nigeria (NASPA-CCN).

• Martins Eke is the programme officer, Environment at Centre for Social Justice, Abuja.

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