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Climate projections needed for decision making and resilience

General - infrastructure flooding ©Casey Horner

The UK’s latest climate projections (UKCP18) update communities and businesses on the latest scientific predictions up to 2100 in order to inform adaptation and resilience initiatives. The risks posed to the continued effective operation of the UK’s infrastructure in a high emission scenario has been flagged by both Defra and the EA.

UKCP18 found British summer temperatures could be 5.4°C higher by 2070 while average rainfall is expected to fall by 47% over the same period. Sea level rise is likely to be around 1.15m in the Thames Estuary by 2100.

The warning comes following the publication of the International Panel on Climate Change’s Global Warming of 1.5°C report (D&I 12-Oct-18) and the publication in the US of the Fourth National Climate Assessment (EA 27-Nov-18).  

Speaking at the Science Museum in London environment secretary Michael Gove said: "By having this detailed picture of our changing climate, we can ensure we have the right infrastructure to cope with weather extremes, homes and businesses can adapt, and we can make decisions for the future accordingly."  

Defra’s chief scientific advisor Ian Boyd said: "Climate change will affect everybody. UKCP18 is designed to help everybody make better decisions, from those buying a house to people making large investments in infrastructure. It has been produced using state-of-the-art methods."

Environment Agency chair Emma Howard Boyd provided an indication of the severity of the findings when she pointed out some coastal communities are likely to become unviable as sea level rises and the frequency of storm events only increases. She believes businesses and investors need to play an ever-increasing role in the UK’s adaptation strategy.

"Long term resilience in infrastructure presents major opportunities for investors," said Boyd. "According to the Institution of Civil Engineers over 45% of the National Infrastructure and Construction Pipeline to 2020/21 is financed through the private sector. Worryingly few FTSE boards are disclosing the strategic risks to their shareholders brought by the physical impacts of climate change.

"Resilience is vital. We can’t wall up England. We increasingly need to look at "green" infrastructure, like natural flood management and soil improvement, to support traditional flood schemes. This work will also create better places for wildlife."

The Environment Agency provided its own review of the UKCP18 figures with the publication of its report Climate change impacts and adaptation. A key function of this report is explaining the threat of flooding events on the UK’s infrastructure. According to the EA there are 1,640 key infrastructure sites located within extreme flood areas in England. The EA used the 2007 floods in Gloucestershire, which damaged water treatment works and cut off water supplies for 17 days, as a prime example of the threats.

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