Thursday, 27 November 2014

Climate change: Royal Society report: "Resilience to Extreme Weather"

There have been several reports on the risk of increased flooding and extreme weather of late:
Futures Forum: Climate change: "The implication of no immediate action is worryingly clear."
Futures Forum: Climate change: "industrial civilization headed for irreversible collapse"?
Futures Forum: Climate change: reports from around the world

The Royal Society has just issued a further report on these issues:

The Royal Society

27 November 2014
Human resilience to climate change banner image

Resilience to extreme weather

How do we reduce the impact of extreme weather today while preparing ourselves for future changes? What can we do to build our resilience?
‘Resilience to extreme weather’ investigates these, and other, key questions to help inform important decisions about adaptation and risk reduction that are being made at global, national and local levels.
We have examined people's resilience to weather- and climate-related extreme events, in particular, floods, droughts and heatwaves. We look at how improvements can be made to protect lives and livelihoods by comparing the options available and considering the fundamental building blocks for resilience.
In 2015, important international agreements will be reached on disaster risk reduction, sustainable development and climate change. Our report will help those negotiating and implementing the new agreements to decide what action to take to most effectively build resilience.


  • Governments have a responsibility to develop and resource resilience strategies
  • Governments should act together at the international level to build resilience; sharing expertise, co-ordinating policy and pooling resources to confront common risks
  • To limit the need for costly disaster responses, more national and international funds will need to be directed to measures that build resilience to extreme weather
  • The purpose, design and implementation of policy frameworks covering climate change, disaster risk reduction and development should be aligned and consistent regarding extreme weather
  • Those who make and implement policies need to take practical measures to protect people and their assets from extreme weather.
  • The risks posed by extreme weather need to be better accounted for in the wider financial system, in order to inform valuations and investment decisions and to incentivise organisations to reduce their exposure
  • Information about extreme weather should be suitable for users’ needs. Funders should encourage collaborations and ongoing dialogue between producers and users of knowledge
  • Research to improve the understanding of risks from current weather and to model accurately future climate change impacts should be increased to provide relevant information for decision-makers, particularly at regional and local levels.

Interactive content

Resilience to extreme weather | Royal Society

The report has been widely covered in today's media:
BBC News - Risk from extreme weather set to rise
Mankind Must Prepare for Extreme Weather Events Warns Royal Society
Deadly future heatwaves could kill thousands in Britain, warn scientists - Telegraph
Heatwaves, floods and droughts to become more common, warns report | Daily Mail Online
Financial systems must consider extreme weather, or risk condemning millions to die | Guardian Sustainable Business | The Guardian
Climate change: Global weather predicted to become increasingly extreme despite warnings - Environment - The Independent

This report is from today's Western Morning News:

UK to face more floods and life-threatening heatwaves

By Western Morning News | Posted: November 27, 2014

By John von Radowitz

Lesley Webber, 52, outside of her home in the flooded village of East Lyng, Somerset, in February 2014.

Comments (2)

Global warming could increase the UK’s vulnerability to life-threatening heatwaves more than 10-fold by the end of the century, a new report has said.

In addition, the risk of exposure to flooding due to extreme rainfall could more than quadruple, according to the findings.

Scientists calculated the impact of climate change and population changes on the chances of people being affected by floods, droughts and heatwaves around the world.

In the UK and other parts of Europe, a dense and increasingly ageing population meant that heatwaves were the most serious threat.

An estimated 2,000 British deaths were attributed to the warmest summer for 500 years in 2003. Last year, up to 760 people reportedly died in England alone during a July heatwave.

The new research suggests that such events could become much more common in years to come. Scientists adopted a “worst case” scenario by assuming an increase in average temperatures around the world of 2.6 – 4.8C by 2100.

But global warming is on course to reach this level unless governments agree to a meaningful strategy for cutting greenhouse gas emissions at critical talks next year.

The researchers defined a heatwave as a run of five days during which night-time temperatures are at least 5C above the norm.

Professor Peter Cox, from the University of Exeter – one of the authors of the Royal Society report, said: “We measure exposure to individuals. That goes up because of more extreme events and because the size of the vulnerable population increases .. Climate change increases the risk to people by a factor of two or three and population change multiplies that by at least 1.5 and up to four times in the case of heatwaves.”

In the UK, the proportion of people aged 65 and over is expected to increase significantly – making more of the population vulnerable to higher temperatures.

The report also found a dramatically increased risk of exposure to flooding in the UK and other parts of western Europe, while the threat of drought hung over the Mediterranean. Climate change is expected to make wetter parts of the world wetter and drier parts drier.

The report issued an urgent call to both governments and private companies to do more to address extreme weather hazards.

Engineering solutions such as dams, sea walls and levees were often costly and also at risk of failing “cataclysmically”, it was claimed. The experts recommended that engineering be combined with natural ecosystem-based approaches such as re-establishing flood plains, protecting coastlines with mangrove forests, and planting vegetation.

Dr Nancy Grimm, from Arizona State University in the US – a member of the working group that wrote the report, said: “We need to make sure that large-scale engineering isn’t making us too complacent. In the developed world we have been heavily reliant on some key large-scale pieces engineering projects, which have been pushed to their limits during recent events.”

The scientists also warned that unless companies improved the way they handle weather risks their credit ratings could suffer.

Co-author Rowan Douglas, chairman of the Willis Research Network – which advises public and private institutions on risk, said it was important that city planners also factor in the increased likelihood of extreme weather events. “At a macro level, we will re-build most of the world’s cities in the next 30 years, literally,” he said. “We have a choice whether to build them to be vulnerable or resilient.”

Professor Georgina Mace, from University College London – who chaired the Royal Society working group, said: “Resilience means people are able to do more than just cope with disastrous events. They’re not just absorbing the impact; they’re able to continue living their lives and to prepare for future such events.”

The report did not look at wind damage, which poses the greatest potential risk to property in the UK.

UK to face more floods and life-threatening heatwaves | Western Morning News
South West should brace itself for more flooding and extreme weather according to new climate report | Western Morning News

Exeter University's Professors Peter Cox and Katrina Brown have been heavily involved in the drafting of the report:
Exeter plays crucial role in new report highlighting ‘significant and increasing’ risks from extreme weather (From Mid Devon Star)

No comments: