Infrastructure, Climate Change and the Economy: Part 1 - Infrastructure Investment

February 11, 2011: Investment in infrastructure to meet the challenges posed by global climate change may spur economic growth and promote stability, a group of British engineering firms said recently. According to the BBC a new report found that communities will need "an infrastructure system that is more resilient to climate change. This will require Government, the public and private sectors and professional sectors such as engineers to come together and proactively meet the challenge of creating a climate resilient infrastructure system for the country."

Information technology specialist Will Stewart from Southampton University told the BBC, "Effective, reliable infrastructure underpins economic activity - and perception that infrastructure is not resilient does affect investment decisions." Stewart, who helped author the aforementioned report Infrastructure, Engineering and Climate Change Adaption - ensuring services in an uncertain future told the British news service, "If your services are more reliable [than your neighbors'], this is where they'll come. ... And there are also consultancy benefits - if we do this sooner and better than other countries, that's saleable."

"The government has established a national adaptation strategy and major infrastructure providers are having to set out their plans for keeping the country running in a future projected to be several Celsius hotter, with more extreme weather events and higher sea levels around the coast," the BBC continued. "Engineering the Future - an alliance of professional engineering bodies - says companies will be more likely to invest in nations with secure infrastructure."

To organize climate change response policies, the British Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (or DEFRA) has instituted a national framework. The framework would help to coordinate the public and private sectors to begin to change infrastructure policies like changing the makeup of asphalt on the highways to be able to handle higher air temperatures, and the possible movement of fisheries north when water temperatures are too high.

The Guardian reported, "Work must begin immediately to ensure that the UK's vital infrastructure can be protected against the worst effects of climate change, the engineers warned (in the report). To provide full protection could be expensive, but as this infrastructure is constantly maintained, providing protection against climate change can be built into the repair schedule."

As the recent flooding in Australia has shown, the implications of the damage caused by severe weather on the economy will cost the country billions in repairs and with the loss of economic activity as well as damage to the infrastructure and the health of the communities.