HR Wallingford delivers a ground-breaking new study assessing climate change risks to the UK

Posted: Wednesday 11th April 2012

International research and consultancy organisation, HR Wallingford, led a consortium of specialists to deliver an independent report to the UK Government today detailing the potential risks to the UK from climate change. The Climate Change Risk Assessment (CCRA) report was laid before Parliament by the Secretary of State for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Caroline Spelman. It presents, for the first time, a comparison of a wide range of climate change risks based on their economic, social and environmental implications.

Explaining the significance of the CCRA, Ian Townend, Director of Research at HR Wallingford, said: “This has been a very demanding study. The need to address the risks to all aspects of UK life from climate change, called for a multi-disciplinary approach. The first challenge was to pull together a consortium that could quickly assimilate the knowledge of individual sectors and work as a team to frame and implement a common approach to the analysis. The analysis had to blend the complexity of the problem with the delivery of a consistent approach across all sectors in a limited time. In parallel, we had to ensure that we captured and understood the full array of different interests. We therefore implemented an extensive programme of stakeholder engagement across the various sectors and dialogue with government departments, to ensure that the study was relevant and focussed both on the most significant risks and those areas where policy may be able to make a difference.

Over the past two and half years the consortium led by HR Wallingford has delivered an innovative method that uses the research and data available to compare risks across sectors on a consistent basis. It not only provides one of the broadest national assessments ever completed but, hopefully, also provides a solid foundation for future cycles of the CCRA. “

Dr Steven Wade, Head of the Water Management Group at HR Wallingford, explained why HR Wallingford was uniquely placed to lead development of the CCRA:

“HR Wallingford has been working on climate change adaptation for more than a decade and had previously developed the National Flood Risk Assessment in England and Wales, provided guidelines on the assessment of climate change on UK water resources and worked with farming businesses on how to make use of climate change information. We were one of the first research groups in the UK to make practical use of the UK Climate Change Projections 2009 (UKCP09) and were therefore well placed to take on the challenge of the CCRA.

Considering the results of the study Dr Wade added: "Although we anticipated that floods, droughts and heat waves would feature prominently, we also found that the overall risk landscape was complex and affected by geography, social and economic change, the connection between risks and the international context. At a UK level, population growth may cause a significant increase in the demand for water and energy while exposing greater numbers of people to flooding and overheating risks. Also some people and places appear to more vulnerable than others to future climate change. For example, the key priorities for Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales show some overlap with those of the UK as a whole but also important differences; changes in water temperature may have a greater impact on fisheries in Scotland, the steep landscape in Wales means a heightened risk of flash floods and landslides, whilst disruption of supply routes due to extreme weather has greater significance in Northern Ireland."

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