Planning for climate change
There is mounting evidence to suggest that the UK is experiencing more extreme weather events. Computer models of what the climate might be like in the future suggest that it will become more commonplace and potentially even more severe.
This is likely to have significant implications for our county in terms of planning for this type of emergency.
Why we need to plan for climate change?
Recent local flooding incidents and severe weather
The North East flooding in 2009 showed, in particular, the impact that flooding can have on local communities and their access to services, while the 2010 snow falls demonstrate that it's not only flooding that can cause significant disruption to services. An increase in severe weather events will increase the pressure on County Durham's infrastructure and emergency services.
Financial consequences of climate change
An average year in the UK will cost insurers approximately £800 million due directly to weather-related claims. In a year with exceptional events, this can rise to around £10.5 billion. It has been estimated that during the summer 2007 flood approximately £5 billion worth of economic damage was caused. In light of this, a recent study 'The economic implications of Climate Change - A North East England Study' commissioned by Climate NE found that it is seven times more cost effective to finance and deliver adaptation measures than it is to take on the financial consequences of severe weather.
Due to the significant financial implications relating to extreme weather it is more important than ever to develop adaptation strategies to reduce the future impact of severe weather events and a changing climate.
Continually reviewing emergency plans to reflect the latest research on the implications of major weather events will be crucial for County Durham's future development.
North East England Climate Change Adaptation Study
In 2008, Sustaine produced a North East England Climate Change Adaptation Study, which provided detailed local knowledge, essential to increasing action on climate change resilience.
An overview of the study's key findings and impacts to 2050 can be found below:
- annual rainfall reductions throughout the region by up to 10 per cent
- increased seasonality of rainfall with increases of up to around 21 per cent in winter and reductions of up to around 37 per cent in summer
- average seasonal temperatures to increase, with a region-wide annual average daily temperature change of just under 2°C
- extreme hot temperatures will increase by around 3°C
- a major reduction in winter snowfall, of around 45 per cent to 83 per cent across the region
- an increase in mean sea levels of around 0.30m
These findings mean that local authorities and their partners should prepare and adapt to the impacts that the UK will encounter. Such impacts could be:
- increased frequency of flooding from rivers, streams and the sea
- increased adverse health and welfare effects during warmer summers
- increased incidents of wild fires and parkland fires
- increased frequency of flooding from drainage systems
- increased damage to fabric and structure of buildings
- loss of business / service productivity or continuity
- increased business opportunities associated with adaptation
- increased pressure on emergency services
- increased disruption to service continuity
- increased erosion of the coastline
- increased storm-related debris
- changes in winter road maintenance regimes.