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November 23, 2012

Extreme weather tough on transportation system

(Continued)

WASHINGTON —

Planning for weather extremes is hampered by reluctance among many officials to discuss anything labeled “climate change,” Horsley said.

“In the Northeast, you can call it climate change. ... That’s an acceptable term in that region of the country,” he said. “Elsewhere, in the South and the (Mountain) West, it’s still not an acceptable term because of ideology or whatever you want to call it.”

For example, Horsley said, in North Dakota, where there has been severe flooding in recent years, state officials avoid bringing up global warming, preferring to couch their discussions on how to shore up infrastructure as flood preparation.

The Obama administration has also shied away from talking publicly about adaptation to climate change. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood’s office refused to allow any department officials to be interviewed by The Associated Press about the agency’s efforts to help states adapt. The Transportation Department and other federal agencies are involved in preparing a national assessment of climate change impacts and adaptations that may be needed. Their report is expected to be finished in the next few months.

Steve Winkelman, director of transportation and adaptation programs at the Center for Clean Air Policy, said he uses terms like “hazard mitigation” and “emergency preparedness” rather than climate change when talking to state and local officials.

“This is about my basement flooding, not the polar bear — what I call inconvenient sewer overflow,” Winkelman said. “It makes it real.”

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Online:

American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials http://www.transportation.org

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Follow Joan Lowy at http://www.twitter.com/AP—Joan—Lowy

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