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Philos Trans A Math Phys Eng Sci. 2018 Jun 13;376(2121). pii: 20170298. doi: 10.1098/rsta.2017.0298. Epub 2018 Apr 30.

A systems framework for national assessment of climate risks to infrastructure.

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School of Engineering, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 7RU, UK
Committee on Climate Change, 7 Holbein Place, London SW1 W 8NR, UK.
School of Mechanical, Aerospace and Civil Engineering, The University of Manchester, Manchester M13 9PL, UK.
Anglian Water, Lancaster House, Lancaster Way, Ermine Business Park, Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire PE29 6XU, UK.
School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham B15 2TT, UK.
Department of Engineering, Durham University, Durham DH1 3LE, UK.
Faculty of Engineering and the Environment, University of Southampton, University Road, Southampton SO17 1BJ, UK.
School of Engineering and Computer Science, University of Hull, Cottingham Rd, Hull HU6 7RX, UK.
Institute for Environmental Design and Engineering, UCL, 14 Upper Woburn Place, London WC1H 0NN, UK.
School of Geography, University of Nottingham, Nottingham NG7 2RD, UK.
Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford, South Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3QY, UK.


Extreme weather causes substantial adverse socio-economic impacts by damaging and disrupting the infrastructure services that underpin modern society. Globally, $2.5tn a year is spent on infrastructure which is typically designed to last decades, over which period projected changes in the climate will modify infrastructure performance. A systems approach has been developed to assess risks across all infrastructure sectors to guide national policy making and adaptation investment. The method analyses diverse evidence of climate risks and adaptation actions, to assess the urgency and extent of adaptation required. Application to the UK shows that despite recent adaptation efforts, risks to infrastructure outweigh opportunities. Flooding is the greatest risk to all infrastructure sectors: even if the Paris Agreement to limit global warming to 2°C is achieved, the number of users reliant on electricity infrastructure at risk of flooding would double, while a 4°C rise could triple UK flood damage. Other risks are significant, for example 5% and 20% of river catchments would be unable to meet water demand with 2°C and 4°C global warming respectively. Increased interdependence between infrastructure systems, especially from energy and information and communication technology (ICT), are amplifying risks, but adaptation action is limited by lack of clear responsibilities. A programme to build national capability is urgently required to improve infrastructure risk assessment.This article is part of the theme issue 'Advances in risk assessment for climate change adaptation policy'.


climate change; infrastructure; interdependence; risk assessment; systems approach

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