After Donald Trump won the presidency, the Federal Highway Administration switched the reference to “Climate Change” to “Resilience” in the name of a program aimed at coping with climate impacts, agency officials confirmed Friday.
Federal highway officials changed the Sustainable Transport and Climate Change group’s name to the Sustainable Transportation and Resilience group on Dec. 13, according to agency spokesman Doug Hecox.
The program, which was started in the final months of President George W. Bush’s time in office, examines how to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions in the transportation system and adapt to changes already underway due to climate change. It was expanded under President Barack Obama, who issued executive orders and guidance instructing agencies to factor climate change into their regular decision-making process.
The program’s website has removed prominent references to climate change, including an overview document titled “Building Climate Resilient Transportation,” and instead highlights hydraulic engineering guidance that is aimed at adapting to sea-level rise and more-frequent flooding.
Hecox said in an email that the team’s name was changed “after several weeks of internal discussions by FHWA’s Associate Administrator for Planning and Environment to more accurately reflect our agency’s emphasis on resilience activities (which constitutes a large portion of our portfolio of work).”
“Addressing the impacts of climate change is a meaningful part of our resilience work, but that work also includes resilience to other risks to the highway system, such as nuisance flooding, current weather events, and operational issues,” he added. “The use of the term ‘resilience’ is consistent with a trend in the transportation community as a way to be inclusive when it comes to dealing with infrastructure risk.”
E&E News first reported the name change on Friday.
Federal officials have worked with state and local governments for years to address the challenges that climate impacts pose to the nation’s aging infrastructure system. But the question of how to incorporate climate science into publicly funded projects has been a contentious one.
President Trump, who has questioned the link between human activity and climate change, is examining whether to reverse some of the directives Obama issued that guide agencies when it comes to climate projections.
The FHWA documents that explicitly mention climate change are still accessible to the public. But the website’s language has changed in several key areas.
One section titled “Adaptation” used to start with this sentence: “Climate change impacts, such as more frequent and intense heat waves and flooding, threaten the considerable federal investment in transportation infrastructure.” Now, that same section is labeled “Resilience” and begins: “Extreme weather, sea level change and changes in environmental conditions threaten the considerable federal investment in transportation infrastructure.”