The National Academies

ACRP 02-102 [Pending]

A Balanced Look at Local Airport Activity and Climate Change

  Project Data
Funds: $400,000
Contract Time: 18 months
Staff Responsibility: Joseph D. Navarrete


ACRP Report 132: The Role of U.S. Airports in the National Economy (2015) demonstrated that the nation’s airport system provides essential transportation services for millions of travelers and shippers of goods. Public use airports in the United States create and sustain 11.5 million jobs and contribute $1.6 trillion to the economy annually when direct, indirect, and induced economic effects are considered. However, aviation results in both benefits and disbenefits (e.g., as described in ACRP Research Report 221: Measuring Quality of Life in Communities Surrounding Airports). As communities become more socially and environmentally conscious, increased concerns focused on some of the adverse impacts of aviation activity, including its contribution to climate change.  This has most recently appeared as social pressure to discourage air travel.  Airport practitioners need resources to effectively communicate the industry's benefits and impacts, including economic impacts, environmental impacts, and sustainability efforts, to multiple audiences in a balanced, evidence-based manner.
The objective of this research is to provide resources and guidelines to help airports present a balanced and objective look at the benefits and disbenefits of air travel and local airport activity. The resources and guidelines should include:
  • Primer summarizing current understanding of the impacts of aviation on climate change; international, regional, and local efforts to discourage aviation activity; and the risks of reduced activity (e.g., adverse impacts to air service and the economy);
  • Guidebook that includes:
    • Guidelines and resources to help airports:
      • Respond to community climate change concerns using information from evidence-based research about benefits and impacts;
      • Build partnerships with local communities, key influencers, and other stakeholders;
      • Anticipate and prepare for relevant emerging issues that could affect attitudes toward air travel; and
      • Develop messaging/communication strategies that allow airports to translate evidence-based research findings to:
        • Communicate positive actions and benefits made by airports (e.g., new technologies, environmental sustainability efforts, economic impact, and other quality of life benefits); and
        • Respond to misinformation;
    • A minimum of four case studies (non-U.S. examples may be considered) of airports of various sizes and locations that have provided a balanced and objective look at the benefits and disbenefits of air travel activity; and
    • A list of resources.
The guidelines and techniques should be scalable and adaptable to the unique conditions of the airport, including airport type, size, governance, and resource availability.
The research plan should include, at a minimum, the following interim deliverables:
  • Literature review and annotated outline for the primer;
  • List of recommended case studies and rationale; and
  • Interim report documenting the research effort and results of the project to date, including: (1) status of case studies; (2) annotated outline for the guidebook; (3) proposal for conducting a pilot test of the resources and guidance; and (4) recommended next steps.
The research plan should include, at a minimum, the following checkpoints with the ACRP project panel: (1) kickoff web meeting to be held within 1 month of contract execution; (2) web meeting to discuss literature review and primer outline; (3) web meeting to approve case studies; and (4) interim meeting to review the results of the interim report and confirm remaining research approach.
The final deliverables will include: 
  • Primer;
  • Guidebook;
  • Technical report documenting the entire research process and findings;
  • Summary of Key Findings;
  • Further Recommended Research Memo; and
  • Technical memo titled, “Implementation of Research Findings and Products”.
STATUS: Proposals have been received in response to the RFP. The project panel will meet to select a contractor to perform the work.

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