Friday, January 28, 2011

Defra's UK climate-proofing plans unveiled

David Shukman in BBC News: Roads built to the same standards as the scorching south of France; fish moved from the overheated Lake District to cooler waters in Scotland; lighthouses threatened by rising seas. From measures in use already to seemingly far-fetched scenarios for the future, these are some of the findings in the first batch of climate adaptation plans submitted to the environment ministry Defra.

Under the Climate Change Act, 91 major organisations responsible for key aspects of national infrastructure have to explain how they will cope if the climate alters as forecast. The latest projections suggest the potential for major change - for example that it is "very likely" that southern England will on average be 2.2-6.8C warmer by the 2080s.

…Many of the ideas for adaptation have been aired before but this is the first time they have been brought together in a formal set of strategies. In its plan, the Highways Agency recognises the risk of roads deteriorating more rapidly in higher temperatures and more frequent extreme weather. One solution, adopted in 2008, is to copy the specifications for road foundations used in southern France.

The Environment Agency warns that rising temperatures will be stressful for wildlife - with fish at the greatest risk. It raises the radical option of relocating some fish species from the Lake District to habitats further north where the waters will be cooler.

…Network Rail raises concerns about keeping passengers cool in heatwaves, ensuring that rail lines do not buckle in high temperatures and preventing embankments collapsing as a result of flooding. One of its most vulnerable stretches of track is on the south Devon coast between Dawlish and Teignmouth where storms have often seen waves break over the line.

…National Grid has submitted two reports - for gas and electricity. On gas, it warns that pipes could become exposed through subsidence or erosion and it is working to replace old metal pipes with ones made of polyethylene. On electricity, it identifies 13 substations - unnamed - that are vulnerable to a one-in-a-century flood - a relatively high risk for such important assets. The 2007 floods had provided a wake-up for the industry when a vital substation at Walham in Gloucester - serving tens of thousands of households - was almost overwhelmed….

The Beachy Head lighthouse in Eastbourne, UK, shot by Teddy Sipaseuth, Wikimedia Commons via Flickr, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license

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