Early investments in climate change research, policy, and planning focused heavily on climate mitigation—efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. As climate change impacts have increased in severity, this focus has broadened to include a greater emphasis on climate change adaptation—efforts to minimize the adverse impacts of climate change through hardening or relocating infrastructure, changing design standards, improving redundancy, and other measures. Building climate adaptation capacity within transportation agencies is not straightforward, however, because the knowledge base for climate adaptation is changing rapidly and because the process itself is inherently complex. Moreover, climate change impacts and, therefore, adaptation strategies vary regionally as agencies must manage stressors as varied as sea level rise, increased precipitation, extreme temperatures, reduced slope stability, and thawing permafrost. The growing emphasis on climate adaptation has created a demand for professionals with a new, interdisciplinary skillset. Since climate adaptation is an emerging field, the pathways for developing the skills and competencies for adaptation careers and their broad integration into transportation agencies are not well established.
This white paper assesses the workforce development needs and current training opportunities related to transportation-sector climate adaptation. To understand the climate adaptation workforce development environment, we examine training needs and opportunities identified by state and regional transportation agencies; catalog the training needs of aspiring and early career climate adaptation professionals; and scan the educational opportunities in climate adaptation currently offered by U.S. universities. Training needs and opportunities identified by transportation agencies were collected through an online survey developed by the authors. The experience of aspiring adaptation professionals was captured in a unique survey conducted by the American Society of Adaptation Professionals (ASAP) as part of their mentorship program. Current graduate educational programs related to climate adaptation were identified during this project through a web-search. These diverse datasets, combined with lessons learned from existing adaptation initiatives, provide unique insights into the competencies needed for climate adaptation as well as the current capacity for training adaptation professionals.