Climate Change Puts UK Infrastructure at Risk

Monday, July 28th, 2014
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One of the UK’s leading engineering bodies warns that the resilience and operation of the country’s infrastructure will be heavily compromised by the impact of climate change.

A new report by the UK’s Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) warns that the nation’s infrastructure will be placed under increasing pressure in future by the extreme weather phenomena created by global warming, resulting in an increased risk of failure for systems which are ill-prepared to with these changes

According to ICE floods, droughts and severe storms are all set to occur with greater frequency in years to come as a result of planet-wide climate change, putting energy networks, transportation infrastructure, sewerage and water systems at heightened risk of disruption or collapse.

“It is becoming clear that extreme weather events will become more frequent,” said ICE vice president Keith Clarke. “It is time that factors such as availability, resilience, and the domino effect are rooted into the criteria used to make decisions on which projects go ahead, so new infrastructure is more future-proofed.”

The report contains a score-card providing a overall assessment of vital aspects of the UK’s infrastructure – a service which has been performed by on an annual basis by ICE since the start of the new century.

In the report’s assessment the UK’s local transportation infrastructure is already at risk of suffering serious failure, and spending on road maintenance needs to be made a key priority by government. Energy, waste systems and flood defences all received poor or middling remarks in ICE’s score-card, with all three deemed in need of attention or intervention from the government.

The poor marks given to flood defences are an especial source of concern, given the frequency with which the UK, as an archipelago nation, has been beset by storms and heavy flooding in recent years. Flooding which occurred as recently as the start of 2014 compelled thousands of Britons to flee their homes, with many transportation routes still disrupted six months subsequently as a result of the extreme weather event.

ICE further points out that the failure of flood defences can have a spillover or domino effect on other infrastructure systems, including transportation, communications, water, waste and energy.

While the engineering body acknowledges that it will be impossible to completely safeguard key infrastructure systems from force majeur events, increased coordination is needed between private sector owners of infrastructure in order to heighten their resilience. In ICE’s opinion, this would best be facilitated by the efforts of the government and the introduction of “the right regulatory environment.”

“The public expect a certain level of service. Government ultimately bears the risk for the resulting impact,” said Clarke.

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