Climate change is no longer something that might happen in the future. It is happening now and bringing major challenges to economies, communities, infrastructures and places across the world. Its impacts will be wide-ranging and irreversible.
This year, climate change and its impacts have risen up the political, economic and societal agendas. The hottest temperature ever recorded in the UK (38.7ºC) was in Cambridge in July, bouts of intense rainfall led to flooding across the UK and contributed to the Toddbrook Reservoir emergency, and extremely high temperatures were experienced across southern and northern Europe leading to wildfires and health emergencies.
Despite the UK Government’s commitment to achieve zero carbon by 2050, and initiatives such as the Clean Growth Strategy, the Committee on Climate recently reported that the UK government is not doing enough to reduce emissions - even to meet the previous lower target. The Committee also raised concerns about our ability to prepare for increases in temperature and associated impacts such as heatwaves, flooding and water scarcity. We have also had messages from Extinction Rebellion and from Greta Thunberg that the time to act is now, not at some point in the future. Numerous local authorities, as well as the UK government, have declared climate emergencies.
Impacts for economies, places and infrastructure
Extreme weather events present a challenge to the resilience of our infrastructure now, and this is likely to increase in the future. Record temperatures earlier this year led to railway tracks buckling, overhead lines sagging and road surfaces melting. Flooding temporarily closed the West Coast Mail Line between England and Scotland in August, causing major disruption to passengers, and lanes were closed on key arterial routes, causing lengthy delays.
While our infrastructure operators are increasing the resilience of their assets and operations to current weather and future climate change, these recent events have shown the disruption and knock-on effects for lives and livelihoods that can result from extreme events.
The human costs from extreme events are far reaching with the mental health impacts of flood events widely recognised and the health impacts from extreme temperatures, whether hot or cold, leading to increased mortality and major costs for the NHS.
Financial institutions are also increasingly aware of the potential changes that climate change impacts and reducing emissions could have for the way that the economy functions. Investors will need to shift away from carbon fuels and banks and insurance companies could face substantial losses.
Steer taking up the gauntlet
At Steer, we are supporting businesses to become aware and resilient through strategy, action, investment and insurance, while also recognising the need to both reduce our contribution to climate change and prepare for its impacts.
Climate resilience is increasingly becoming embedded in economic and infrastructure planning, and we are developing a forward plan to ensure that climate resilience is prioritised in all of our projects. We understand climate science and can explain this science in a way that is accessible to non-technical audiences and relevant to their interests. We can help organisations identify the risks they face and measures they can take to adapt to these risks, as well as enhancing their adaptive capacity, using tools such as the recently published international standard on adaptation to climate change (ISO 14090).
We are committed to developing climate-resilient places, infrastructure and economies in the UK and internationally and look forward to providing future updates on progress.