UK Climate Projections: impacts on infrastructure resilience

(Image is taken from the UK CCRA Evidence Report, Chapter 4 Infrastructure – Infographic).

UKCP18 will be launched on 26 November. Following our UK Climate Projections 2018 blog, below we consider the importance of the new UKCP18 projections in helping to secure the long-term climate resilience of the UK’s infrastructure.

UKCP18 will update the UKCP09 projections over UK land areas and sea-level rise, giving:

  • Greater regional detail
  • Further analysis of the risks we face – both nationally and globally
  • More information on potential extremes and the impacts of climate change.

Importantly, the UKCP18 user interface has been designed with the user community in mind. Informed by a non-Government user group, that includes us at JBA, it takes account of consultation findings that have revealed a need for more user-friendly outputs.

Keeping the country going

The UK’s transport, energy, digital, waste, flood risk management and water infrastructure can be, and often is, disrupted by weather events with impacts for individuals, communities and the economy.

Damage to residential and commercial property, delay and disruption of road, rail and air transport, power outages, internet failures and water quality issues can impact our day to day quality of life. This also affects the economic prosperity of our communities and the country as a whole.

The second UK Climate Change Risk Assessment, 2017 (UKCCRA) highlights that the increasing frequency and severity of flooding represents the most significant climate change risk to UK infrastructure. All infrastructure sectors are already exposed to multiple sources of flooding – from rivers, the sea, surface water and groundwater.

The total cost of flooding and coastal erosion damage to infrastructure was over £700m in 2007, around £330m in 2013/14 and almost £440m in 2015/16. With climate change, it is estimated that the number of infrastructure assets at risk of flooding could increase by 30% if future temperatures increase by 2oC and 200% if temperatures increase by 4oC by the 2080s.

Read more about this in the ‘Climate Change Risk Assessment 2017: Projections of future flood risk in the UK’ report.

It isn’t just flooding and coastal erosion! Changes in rainfall intensity, high temperatures, high winds and gales, and lightning strikes are continuing. As a result of this, there are a number of growing challenges for transport providers, water companies, local authorities, the Environment Agency and digital communication.

UKCP18 is producing new information that will add to our understanding of these risks and effects. We need to be ready to interpret its data and information when the data are released.

Working together

Our infrastructure assets don’t operate in isolation – transport needs the power to support signalling, points, air traffic control and motorway signage. Power generation and transmission must be protected from flooding to maintain the supply of electricity.

More of our infrastructure is being managed through digital communications meaning that loss of internet connection or speed can prevent our infrastructure from functioning. The CCRA identified the importance of understanding these infrastructure interdependencies and how the impacts of climate change will be affected by them.

One of the key actions it recommends is to increase infrastructure resilience. Information sharing and improved governance arrangements can clarify the responsibilities regarding the risks of cascading failures from interdependent infrastructure networks.

The UK’s first National Infrastructure Assessment, published earlier this year, also highlights the challenge of climate change for UK infrastructure. A Government-led National Infrastructure Study is due to follow that will be informed by an assessment of the economic resilience of UK infrastructure. This in turn will need to be informed by the UKCP18 projections.

Future links with infrastructure

We look forward to continuing to work with infrastructure organisations using the most up to date understanding of climate projections via UKCP18 to support them in enhancing their climate resilience.

Transitioning between the old and the new projections may present some challenges in relation to the availability of new data, so for current projects, we are proposing to largely use UKCP09. We’ll bring in UCKCP18 for any climate variables for which projections differ considerably.

We are adopting this approach in current studies such as the Evidence Base for the next National Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management Strategy. Also, supporting NHS Scotland in enhancing the climate resilience of its Health Boards and the Kent Climate Change Risk and Impact Assessment (supported by the EU funded FRAMES project).

Want to know more?

Email Rachel Brisley for more information on infrastructure resilience and UKCP18. You can also find out more about our work in this area on our climate resilience web page.

Leave a Reply