UK infrastructure unprepared for climate change, say engineers

Extreme weather events such as floods, droughts, heatwaves and more intense storms are expected to become more common as the world warms. This means vital infrastructure – including transport, sewage and water treatment, and electricity and communications networks – is vulnerable to severe damage. But the UK is unprepared for these effects, according to the leading professional bodies for engineers.

“We need to have a debate on this – it all depends on what politicians are prepared to do,” says David Nickols, chair of the water panel at the Institution of Civil Engineers, and one of the authors of the “Infrastructure, Engineering and Climate Change Adaptation” report published by the Royal Academy of Engineering and seven other professional engineering bodies representing nearly half a million engineers.

All of the country’s infrastructure could be rendered more resilient to the probable effects of climate change, but this would require new regulations from the government. Flooding is the most serious of the likely effects of climate change, as it would cause most damage to vital infrastructure, according to the engineers.

Work must begin immediately to ensure that the UK’s vital infrastructure can be protected against the worst effects of climate change, they warn. To provide full protection could be expensive, but as this infrastructure is constantly being maintained, providing protection against climate change can be built into the repair schedule. Infrastructure spending is likely to double in the next decade, in any case.