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Transport and Infrastructure

Transport and infrastructure
What is already happening?
  • Extreme sea levels have increased over the last 150 years, but improved flood defences, advances in flood forecasting and emergency planning means there has generally not been a corresponding increase in coastal flooding. 
  • As Arctic sea-ice declines, more voyages to explore the economic viability of trans-arctic shipping routes are taking place. 

Medium evidence, medium agreement

The impacts on assets from extreme weather (especially flood events) are being recorded more comprehensively. However, detailed monitoring and recording of the performance, deterioration and thresholds of failure of infrastructure is not being carried out in a systematic manner, making it difficult to determine vulnerability to key forcing mechanisms.

What could happen in the future?
  • Under a high-emissions scenario, the trans-Arctic shipping season could reach four to eight months by 2100; however, inter-annual variability will remain a significant factor in route availability. 
  • The combined threat of flooding from sea-level rise and storms makes transport and energy infrastructure at the coast particularly at risk. 
  • With the implementation of Shoreline Management Plans, an estimated 2700 properties will still be lost to coastal erosion in England over the next 50 years. Without implementation the number rises to 28,000 properties.

Low evidence, medium agreement

Confidence with regards to assessments of potential future impacts to transport and infrastructure is intrinsically linked to the robustness of future climate change projections. Increasingly sophisticated models are being used to consider the response of coastal systems, but the complexity of these systems means the range of possible outcomes is high.

Key Challenges and Emerging Issues
  • Establishing how climate change affects infrastructure performance, deterioration, and threshold failure, supported by long term monitoring.
  • Improving confidence regarding how climate change will impact on weather parameters, notably wind and wave regimes, that determine infrastructure risk profiles.
  • Improving understanding of correlated flood risks to transport and infrastructure (such as events affecting large sections of the coast, clustered in time, including from both coastal and riverine sources).