Friday, February 13, 2009

Shall we start building an Ark?

The Institution of Mechanical Engineers has called for the government to shift its climate focus towards adapting for the inevitable problems that are going to come. They assume that further attempts to reduce CO2 emissions, whilst still being necessary, will be too little too late. They are probably right.

The report essentially argues we need to be "realistic" that our governments are only going to take completely ineffectual action against climate change and therefore we need to press them to understand what implications this has for infrastructure, if we want to remain viable.

The Institute states that "Climate modelling in the report shows the UK suffering from increased flooding, volatile storms, droughts and intense heat and areas including London and the Norfolk Broads could eventually, literally, be wiped off the map." It makes sense then that all buildings, roads, sewers, pipelines, etc will either have to be made robust enough to withstand those new conditions or we have to expect a massive headache down the line.

The report has three core recommendations for us;

  • Urge Government to be ‘realistic’ in the fight against climate change and start ‘adapting’ as well as mitigating.
  • Heavily invest in planning and resources for our future settlements, critical national assets (power stations and ports) and transport routes.
  • Help others: The UK should be leading the industrialised world to help vulnerable nations cope with impending climate change events
It's this last point that has really impressed me. Whilst it's understandable much of the news today has focused on what this might mean for the UK, in fact a substantial portion of this report examines what's going to happen in the developing world and what our responsibilities in the West are, as the main contributors of carbon emissions, to assist them deal with the deadly effects of climate chaos.

I'm inclined to agree with the engineers frankly. A few years ago I'd have been adamant that anything that even hinted that we could just buy some strong shutters meant we didn't have to reduce emissions was a dangerous game but now, well, we cannot trust to chance that we're going to solve the climate change problem before its effects start making themselves felt in a serious way. Sorry, but we're not.

Parts of the developing world have already seen the consequences of new weather systems, to tragic effects. These nations are ill equipped to deal with natural disasters, even man made ones. Whilst we in the UK have seen only hints so far just because we're a developed nation does not mean we're immune from shift in climate patterns, as those in Australia can sadly testify.

If this serves as a wake up call to bolster the need of increased production of renewable energy whilst decreasing the overall level of consumption then that's excellent, but the central message of the report - let's get ready for the storm - is one we need to heed in good time.
You can read the report adapting to the inevitable here (pdf).

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