Caltrans Research Workshop: Equity in Adapting Transportation Infrastructure to Climate Change

Caltrans Research Workshop: Equity in Adapting Transportation Infrastructure to Climate Change

Tuesday, November 30, 2021, 10:00am - 3:00pm PDT

Event Overview

This virtual workshop was open to Caltrans staff only. The workshop explored the intersection between adaptation to climate change and social equity. The agenda included research presentations from academic experts, local practitioner perspectives, and a discussion among Caltrans staff about how the department can adapt the state’s transportation system to the impacts of climate change in a holistic, equitable fashion.

Workshop Report  


Opening Remarks: Setting the stage. Opening remarks highlighted Caltrans actions around equity and climate change adaptation.

Session 1: Why equity in climate adaptation planning? This session laid a foundation for the rest of the workshop, introducing key concepts such as vulnerability to climate change impacts, how certain populations are more vulnerable due to long-standing inequities, and how climate adaptation efforts can potentially exacerbate these inequities still furtherSpeaker: Eric Chu, UC Davis.

Dr. Chu's Presentation Slides


Session 2: How can Caltrans consider equity in climate adaptation? This session included short presentations from researchers highlighting their work on considering equity in adaptation to sea level rise, extreme heat, and other climate threats. Speakers: Suwan Shen and Karl Kim, University of Hawaii; Jim Thorne and Jason Whitney, UC Davis.

Dr. Shen & Dr. Kim's Presentation Slides

Dr. Thorne & Whitney's Presentation Slides


Session 3: Practitioner perspectives. This session featured local practitioners sharing their experiences building equity into regional climate adaptation planning efforts. Speakers: Tuere Fa'aola, San Diego Association of Governments; Christine Corrales, San Joaquin Council of Governments; and Hana Creger, The Greenlining Institute.


Session 4: Discussion session. This discussion among participants was structured around the content presented in the earlier sessions. Participants discussed the barriers to and opportunities for Caltrans to build equity into its climate adaptation efforts.

More Information

For more information about this workshop or upcoming research workshops, please contact Tyler Monson, Caltrans Division of Research, Innovation and System Information.


California Climate Adaptation Resources

The California Climate Adaptation Strategy, a draft of which was released for public review on October 18, 2021, outlines the state's key climate resilience priorities, includes specific and measurable steps, and serves as a framework for action across sectors and regions in California.

The California Adaptation Planning Guide is designed to support local government, regional organizations, and climate collaborative groups to integrate best practices and current science into their adaptation planning efforts.

The Adaptation Clearinghouse is California’s consolidated, searchable database of resources for local, regional and statewide climate adaptation planning and decision-making.

Defining Vulnerable Communities in the Context of Climate Adaptation is a resource guide developed through the Integrated Climate Adaptation and Resiliency Program.

Caltrans Climate Change Vulnerability Assessments describe climate change effects in each of Caltrans’ 12 districts.

Equity and Adaptation Resources

Making Equity Real in Climate Adaptation and Community Resilience Policies and Programs: A Guidebook (Greenlining Institute) provides specific recommendations on how to operationalize social equity into policies and grant programs focused on climate adaptation.

Making Racial Equity Real in Research (Greenlining Institute) offers key steps to creating partnership-based research.

Advancing Climate Justice in California: Guiding Principles and Recommendations for Policy and Funding Decisions is a set of recommendations prepared by the Climate Justice Working Group as part of the 2017 Safeguarding California Plan update.

Academic Resources

Equity Impacts of Urban Land Use Planning for Climate Adaptation: Critical Perspectives from the Global North and South (2016). Isabelle Anguelovski, Linda Shi, Eric Chu, Daniel Gallagher, Kian Goh, Zachary Lamb, Kara Reeve, and Hannah Teicher. Journal of Planning Education and Research.

Roadmap towards justice in urban climate adaptation research (2016). Linda Shi, Eric Chu, Isabelle Anguelovski, Alexander Aylett, Jessica Debats, Kian Goh, Todd Schenk, Karen C. Seto, David Dodman, Debra Roberts, J. Timmons Roberts and Stacy D. VanDeveer. Nature Climate Change.

Assessment of Transportation System Vulnerabilities to Tidal Flooding in Honolulu, Hawaii (2020). Suwan Shen and Karl Kim. Transportation Research Record.

2020 Critical Update to Caltrans Wildfire Vulnerability Analysis (2021). James H. Thorne, Ryan M. Boynton, Alan D. Hollander, Jason P. Whitney, and Kristen D. Shapiro. National Center for Sustainable Transportation Technical Report.

Climate Adaptation Tools

CalEnviroScreen is a screening tool used to help identify communities disproportionately burdened by multiple sources of pollution and with population characteristics that make them more sensitive to pollution.

Climate Change & Health Vulnerability Indicators for California can help communities and local decision makers to better understand the populations that are more at risk for climate change-induced or -exacerbated health impacts.

CDC/ATSDR's Social Vulnerability Index uses 15 U.S. Census variables to help local officials identify communities that may need support before, during, or after disasters.

California Healthy Places Index assists with exploring local factors that predict life expectancy and comparing community conditions across the state.

Regional Opportunity Index integrates economic, infrastructure, environmental, and social indicators in to a comprehensive assessment of the factors driving opportunity.

Economically Distressed Areas Mapping Tool is an interactive map application that assists local agencies with their responsibilities under the California Water Plan, Integrated Regional Water Management, and the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.

California Heat Assessment Tool allows users to explore and understand how extreme heat will impact specific communities across the state.

San Diego Climate Equity Index measures the level of access to opportunity residents have within a census tract and assesses the degree of potential impact from climate change to these areas.