Skip to main content Skip to secondary navigation
Main content start

Designing Infrastructure for a Changing Climate

Stanford climate scientist Noah Diffenbaugh joins a team of scientists and engineers who will study the future of infrastructure design in California under worsening climate change impacts.

"washed out road"
Daniel Case

California, the seventh largest economy in the world, is a worldwide leader in climate change adaptation. The state continues to innovate in this field by moving to incorporate scientific knowledge about current and future climate change impacts into infrastructure design. In this most recent such development, California Secretary for Natural Resources John Laird announced the formation of a working group to examine how to integrate knowledge of climate change impacts into state infrastructure engineering. Noah Diffenbaugh, a professor in the School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences and Kimmelman Family Senior Fellow at Woods, was among the experts chosen for the group.

“It's clear that the climate of California has changed in recent decades, and that our infrastructure has not kept pace with those changes,” said Diffenbaugh. “I'm honored to have the opportunity to help our state think about smart and effective ways to adapt our infrastructure to the ‘new normal’ of climate change.”

In California, damaging impacts of climate change are already felt: coastal erosion, drought, extreme precipitation and wildfires threaten public infrastructure and lead to great financial losses. State agencies will use the working group’s findings in future decisions about infrastructure investments and maintenance. The Working Group, composed of fourteen scientists and engineers, will have until July 2018 to present its findings. 

Diffenbaugh’s lab at Stanford studies how human-caused changes in the climate system can affect public infrastructure, such as bridges and dams. He has been a vocal proponent of investing in climate-smart infrastructure as a vital step to increasing safety and resilience. He has previously contributed expertise to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and consulted with the White House, California Gov. Jerry Brown and U.S. congressional offices.

Read more about the Working Group.

Read about related Environmental Venture Projects research.

Explore More