Global warming is no longer the future – it affects us already today: floods in Germany, intense heat waves in Italy, a snowstorm in Poland. These and other natural disasters can directly affect cargo deliveries from one point to another, so the question arises – could the climate become the weak link in a supply chain?
To answer this question, it is necessary to grasp that the climate does not mean the air temperature only, but also atmospheric pressure, wind speed and the amount of rainfall in the course of the last 30 years. Climate change is affected by many factors – one of them is CO2 emissions from transport and factories, but the situation in this field is gradually improving, as new legislative initiatives lead to improvements in technology in the usual aggregates. Additionally, new technologies are developed, such as hydrogen-powered vehicles. Considering that logistics is the bloodstream of the global economy, international trade would not be possible without a supply chain system that is being improved every year to make international freight transport more efficient, faster and safer, while also protecting nature and the climate as much as possible. However, this has created a vicious circle, as climate change also affects the transport and logistics sector in return.
Nowadays, the transport industry and global infrastructure have adapted to the current weather conditions, so that, for instance, road surfaces could endure extreme heatwaves, or bridges would be suitable for prolonged rainfall and higher water levels. However, as a result of climate change, the weather could become increasingly dangerous and unpredictable. Transport and logistics company Vervo LLC offers its predictions of possible challenges for the upcoming decade. By being aware of the risks posed by climate change and responding to them promptly, we can save time as well as prevent both financial and cargo losses in the future.
Currently, climate change is expected to increase the intensity of natural disasters – the damage caused by storms could be more severe, rain could cause more floods, heat could cause drought. It is worth mentioning that import and export trends may change in the future, as heat might, for example, lead to a decrease in grain crop yields in a place where it has previously been a TOP 1 export product.
Climate impact on road freight transport
Impact on the road surface
For cargo transport to be fast and safe, the quality of the road surface is crucial. As a result of an increased air temperature, the road surface might get damaged - especially in high traffic areas, where the road surface may become soft, thus creating grooves and potholes. On the other hand, climate change is making winters warmer, which means less ice and scattering of salt. Heavy rain can cause floods, as this has already happened in Germany - and this can slow down cargo deliveries. Meanwhile, ice roads made of compressed snow or ice, which are typically found in Russia, Norway, Finland, Estonia and Canada, may disappear over time due to warm winters.
Impact on road and rail transport
Heat causes tires to wear out faster, while warmer winters prevent cold damage. In the case of rail transport, heat causes the tracks to expand, thus increasing the need for regular track repairs, speed limits or even infrastructure upgrades. The movement of a cargo train can also be affected in cases where debris is washed out on the railway due to major floods.
Climate impact on airfreight
Impact on air traffic
High air temperatures can interfere with aircraft performance, which can cause some flight delays and even cancellations. Storms and floods can also disrupt the take-off of cargo planes. At the same time, the need for additional aeroplane maintenance, for example, defrosting, will be less relevant during the winter.
Climate impact on sea freight transport
Impact on ship traffic
Climate change may reduce the number of glaciers on important ship routes, thus raising sea levels. This could result in even larger ships in the future, and that could reduce the costs of delivery. However, climate change could lead to storms of higher intensity, which could disrupt not only container transportation but also domestic freight transport in rivers. As a result of global warming, the Arctic glaciers are melting, which could drastically change trade routes by water - sea routes would become wider, providing even faster cargo deliveries. For example, the Northern Sea Route could be used instead of the Suez Canal to transport goods from Asia to Europe. Due to the climate, there may be a need to rebuild coastal infrastructure, improve port equipment and docks.
Overall, climate change may lead to more frequently updated road surfaces, rebuilt bridges to adapt to possible floods and some infrastructure changes. It is important to adapt to climate change and to be able to react to non-standard situations. Although climate change also brings something positive to the table in terms of warmer winters and ship transportation, many risks can lead to financial losses. Transport and logistics company Vervo LLC offers to insure cargo, which will also cover losses caused by natural damage. With cargo insurance, you can feel confident that the value of the damaged cargo will be returned to you in case it is affected by floods, storms or other natural disasters.