Infrastructure and climate change

30 Mar 2020 02:15 PM

Key infrastructure areas such as transport, energy, water and telecoms are vital to society and the economy. Evidence suggests that climate change is increasing the frequency and severity of extreme weather events, posing a risk to infrastructure systems. This POSTnote looks at the main climate-related risks to the UK’s economic infrastructure, measures to reduce these risks and the main challenges to implementing resilience measures.

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Definitions of infrastructure vary, however the term ‘economic infrastructure’ is often used to describe the transport, energy, telecoms, water, waste management and flood risk management sectors. As a result of climate change, the UK is experiencing rising temperatures and sea levels, changing rainfall patterns, and an increase in the frequency and severity of certain extreme weather events (such as floods, droughts and heatwaves). Long-term changes in average climate can reduce the capacity and efficiency of certain infrastructure types, while in the short-term, extreme weather events can cause failure and disruption of essential services. A recent example is the July 2019 European heatwave, which resulted in extensive disruption across UK railways.

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POSTnotes are based on literature reviews and interviews with a range of stakeholders and are externally peer reviewed. POST would like to thank interviewees and peer reviewers for kindly giving up their time during the preparation of this briefing, including:

 *denotes people and organisations who acted as external reviewers of the briefing.