Climate Change Lands at the Airport

In Economy, Environment On

HONG KONG — Airports are a major global business, part of an industry that by one estimate transports the equivalent of nearly half the world’s population in a single year.

But the world’s airports were largely designed for an older era — a cooler one.

Many were built near seacoasts or river deltas to minimize disturbances to humans or avoid natural obstacles like mountains. Others have short runways because of space restrictions, while planners in the past gave little thought to how extreme temperatures could affect airplanes and airports.

Climate change is making airport planners think again.

Low-lying airports may become increasingly vulnerable to storm surges. Hotter temperatures may cause tarmac to melt, restrict takeoff weights or require heavier aircraft to take off later in the day.

Now governments, companies and experts around the world are grappling with what could be a very expensive problem. Keeping the industry aloft requires colossal investment — $1.1 trillion in airport infrastructure projects are planned or underway, the CAPA Center for Aviation, a consulting firm based in Australia, said in July.

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