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The triple bottom line: bringing a sustainability framework to prioritize climate change investments for infrastructure planning

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Climate change is an increasing concern of agencies, governments, and communities around the world. It poses potential adverse impacts to civil infrastructure, with consequences that include increased financial resources, economic impacts, social impacts, and planning issues. This paper aims to enhance and broaden the discussion on sustainability and the importance of the consideration of social, environmental, and technical aspects in relation to infrastructure planning. Particularly under climate change, these considerations allow for more holistic, effective, and long-term benefits to communities and economies. This paper introduces the triple bottom line (TBL) approach to sustainability as a framework for holistic infrastructure planning under the uncertainty of climate change. The economic pillar will focus on the impacts of climate change on road infrastructure and the cost–benefit of potential adaptation options; environmental considerations include quantifying the potential increase in GHG emissions from increased roadworks required by climate change damages; and the social pillar will be quantified using an index based upon the SoVI method. Each of these ‘pillars’ of sustainability will be analyzed individually and mapped using geographic information systems (GIS). Finally, a ‘holistic’ approach will be discussed, where these individual layers are combined using GIS to display the information. A case study focused on the Sacramento Region of California is used as a proof-of-concept for how the triple bottom line framework introduced here can be utilized to provide actionable, more equitable decision-making for investment in critical infrastructure adaptation policy.

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The authors acknowledge the feedback from the following members for their feedback and valuable input that contributed to the design of this study and results presented in this article: Dr. Bernard Amadei and Dr. Ross Corotis of the Civil, Environmental and Architectural Engineering Department at the University of Colorado Boulder; Dr. Seth Spielman of the Department of Geography at the University of Colorado Boulder; and Dr. Sherman Robinson of the International Food Policy Research Institute.

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Correspondence to Amy Schweikert.

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Handled by Akiyuki Kawasaki, The University of Tokyo, Japan.

Appendix: Climate change models and information

Appendix: Climate change models and information

For the CMIP5 models used in this paper, the information was obtained from the CMIP5 multi-model ensemble archive (Brekke et al. 2013). A full list of the models used from the 4.5 RCP scenario are provided in Table 1. The authors acknowledge the World Climate Research Programme’s Working Group on Coupled modelling, which is responsible for CMIP, and we thank the climate modeling groups (listed in Table 1) for producing and making available their model output. For CMIP, the US Department of Energy’s Program for Climate Model Diagnosis and Intercomparison provides coordinating support and led development of software infrastructure in partnership with the Global Organization for Earth System Science Portals (see World Climate Research Programme; Brekke et al. 2013).

Table 1 CMIP5 daily models for california downloaded

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Schweikert, A., Espinet, X. & Chinowsky, P. The triple bottom line: bringing a sustainability framework to prioritize climate change investments for infrastructure planning. Sustain Sci 13, 377–391 (2018).

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