Climate change is already impacting transportation: Buttigieg

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Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg sounded the alarm bell on climate change, warning that it is already affecting modes of transit.

“The reality is, the effects of climate change are already upon us in terms of our transportation,” Buttigieg said in an interview that aired on CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday.

“We’ve seen that in the form of everything from heat waves that shouldn’t statistically even be possible, threatening to melt the cables of transit systems in the Pacific Northwest, to hurricane seasons becoming more and more extreme and indications that turbulence is up by about 15 percent. That means assessing anything and everything that we can do about it,” he added.

Buttigieg’s comments come days after a passenger on a Singapore Airlines flight died and dozens more were injured after the plane hit severe turbulence last week. He explained that while incidents like that are “rare,” the U.S. still needs to prepare to adapt to the changing climate.

“To be clear, something that extreme is very rare, but turbulence can happen, and sometimes it can happen unexpectedly. Our climate is evolving. Our policies and our technology and our infrastructure have to evolve accordingly, too,” he said.

“This is all about making sure that we stay ahead of the curve, keeping aviation as safe as it is. It’s not for nothing that it became the safest form of travel in America,” Buttigieg added.

It is still not clear what may have caused the deadly turbulence on the Singapore Airlines flight. The National Transportation Safety Board said last week that it would be sending a team of investigators to look into the incident.

The Singapore Airlines flight quickly sparked questions surrounding turbulence and whether customers should expect more turbulence due to stronger jet stream winds driven by climate change.

Some studies have shown that clear-air turbulence — which is turbulence that occurs when there are no visible signs of bad weather — is increasing due to climate change.

Research from the University of Reading last year found that severe in-air turbulence increased 55 percent between 1979 and 2020, also saying that the increase is “consistent with the effects of climate change.”

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