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A systems framework for national assessment of climate risks to infrastructure

Dawson, Richard J.; Thompson, David; Johns, Daniel; Wood, Ruth; Darch, Geoff; Chapman, Lee; Hughes, Paul N.; Watson, Geoff V.R.; Paulson, Kevin; Bell, Sarah; Gosling, Simon N.; Powrie, William; Hall, Jim W.

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Richard J. Dawson

David Thompson

Daniel Johns

Ruth Wood

Geoff Darch

Lee Chapman

Geoff V.R. Watson

Kevin Paulson

Sarah Bell

Simon N. Gosling

William Powrie

Jim W. Hall


Extreme weather causes substantial adverse socio-economic impacts by damaging and disrupting the infrastructure services that underpin modern society. Globally, $2.5tn a year is spent on infrastructure which is typically designed to last decades, over which period projected changes in the climate will modify infrastructure performance. A systems approach has been developed to assess risks across all infrastructure sectors to guide national policy making and adaptation investment. The method analyses diverse evidence of climate risks and adaptation actions, to assess the urgency and extent of adaptation required. Application to the UK shows that despite recent adaptation efforts, risks to infrastructure outweigh opportunities. Flooding is the greatest risk to all infrastructure sectors: even if the Paris Agreement to limit global warming to 2°C is achieved, the number of users reliant on electricity infrastructure at risk of flooding would double, while a 4°C rise could triple UK flood damage. Other risks are significant, for example 5% and 20% of river catchments would be unable to meet water demand with 2°C and 4°C global warming respectively. Increased interdependence between infrastructure systems, especially from energy and information and communication technology (ICT), are amplifying risks, but adaptation action is limited by lack of clear responsibilities. A programme to build national capability is urgently required to improve infrastructure risk assessment.


Dawson, R. J., Thompson, D., Johns, D., Wood, R., Darch, G., Chapman, L., …Hall, J. W. (2018). A systems framework for national assessment of climate risks to infrastructure. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences, 376(2121), Article 20170298.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jan 17, 2018
Online Publication Date Apr 30, 2018
Publication Date Jun 13, 2018
Deposit Date May 2, 2018
Publicly Available Date May 18, 2018
Journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences.
Print ISSN 1364-503X
Electronic ISSN 1471-2962
Publisher The Royal Society
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 376
Issue 2121
Article Number 20170298


Published Journal Article (627 Kb)

Publisher Licence URL

Copyright Statement
© 2018 The Authors. Published by the Royal Society under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, provided the original author and source are credited.

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