Extreme events, such as the winter storms of 2013/14 and 2015/16, are associated with disruption to or even the complete loss of essential services such as water and energy supplies, and transportation and communication networks. As well as being costly to recover, the loss of infrastructure services can have significant impacts on people’s health and wellbeing, and local economic activity.

Infrastructure services such as heating, lighting, mobility and sanitation are essential for modern society. Current variability in weather already impacts the performance of the UK’s infrastructure. Climate change is expected to lead to an increase in the frequency and severity of severe weather including flooding, higher temperatures and possibly drought.

An increasing frequency and severity of flooding from a range of sources represents the most significant climate change risk to UK infrastructure.

Changes in temperature and rainfall will place additional pressures on infrastructure, in particular the rail, road, water and energy sectors.

Any increases in maximum wind speeds with climate change experienced during storms would have significant implications for many infrastructure networks.

There is evidence that significant adaptation steps have been implemented, or are underway, across most infrastructure sectors.

Whilst understanding of sectoral risks has improved over the last few years, the impacts of climate change could be amplified by interdependencies between infrastructure sectors.


Infrastructure - Infographic Section 1


Lead author: Richard Dawson (Newcastle University)

Contributing authors: Simon Gosling (University of Nottingham), Lee Chapman (University of Birmingham), Geoff Darch (Atkins), Geoff Watson and William Powrie (University of Southampton), Sarah Bell (UCL), Kevin Paulson (University of Hull), Paul Hughes (University of Durham), Ruth Wood (University of Manchester)

ASC contributors: David Thompson and Daniel Johns


Risks and opportunities

More action needed

More action needed to enhance arrangements for information sharing in order to improve understanding of critical risks arising from interdependencies.

More action needed

More action needed to manage increasing risk to existing assets and networks and ensure increased risk is accounted for in design and location of new infrastructure.

More action needed (research priority in Northern Ireland & Scotland)

More action needed to manage increasing risk to existing networks (including flood and coastal erosion risk management infrastructure), from sea-level rise and increased rate of erosion.

More action needed

More action needed to deliver sustainable drainage systems, upgrade sewers where appropriate, and tackle drivers of increasing surface runoff (e.g. impermeable surfacing in urban areas).

Research priority

More research needed on implications of projected changes in river flows on future risk of scour/erosion.

More action needed

More action needed to locate and remediate slopes, embankments and cuttings at risk of failure.

Watching brief

Monitor impacts and be ready to adapt operations as necessary.

Watching brief

Monitor changes in temperature and rainfall patterns to update assessments of subsidence risk.

More action needed (sustain current action in Northern Ireland & Scotland)

New policies and stronger co-ordinated, cross-sector effort needed to deliver more ambitious reductions in water consumption and establish strategic planning of new water-supply infrastructure.

More action needed to put in place reforms of the water abstraction licencing regime.

Watching brief

Continue to monitor risks including as a result of deploying carbon capture and storage.

Ensure appropriate siting of new infrastructure including use of suitable cooling technologies.

Research priority

More research needed on the implications of increased vegetation growth rates on future risks of damage from falling trees in storms.

Research priority (watching brief in Northern Ireland & Wales)

More research needed to assess climate risks to existing and planned off-shore renewable energy infrastructure.

Sustain current action

Continue current actions to reduce risks, including maintenance and renewal of infrastructure networks.

Sustain current action

Continue current actions to reduce risks, including to maintain current cold-weather planning and response capabilities.