Transportation, telecom, energy and water infrastructures form the basis of the global economy. In addition to helping connect people, it enhances the quality of life and is necessary for health and safety. However, these infrastructures, even though robust, are vulnerable to climate change.
The impact of climate change is visible in the increased intensity and frequency of disasters. These disasters have repeatedly shown their power to disrupt these four critical infrastructure pillars.
Infrastructure often requires heavy investment because they are designed in a manner to last for years. For instance, coal-fired plants are expected to have a life expectancy of five decades; similarly, dams should last at least 100 years. Unfortunately, when these infrastructures were designed, little consideration was given to the changing climate change. Therefore, the impact of negligence is such that they are experiencing tremendous amounts of stress and are now highly vulnerable.
Let us now dive in to see the effects of climate change on these four infrastructure systems.
Impact of climate change on telecommunication
It is one of the fastest-growing infrastructures, which has experienced visible improvement over the last few decades. You can confirm the same by checking the internet speed of your broadband on platforms like Speed Test. The world is currently very dependent on the communication network such as Reliance Jio.
With high winds induced by climate change, it is common for objects like trees to fall on the telephone poles and create a disruption. In addition, wind and solar factors affect the above-ground cabling.
On the other hand, floods and hurricanes can impact underground cabling. Examples of disruption caused by climate-induced disasters on telecommunication infrastructure were visible in the United Kingdom flood in 2015-16, along with Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
Impact of climate change on the power grid
High temperatures can devastate the power grid, which is already encountering low redundancy and weak components. Elevated temperature reduces power generation efficiency. Furthermore, it increases the loss of energy during transmission and distribution. Also, it decreases the longevity of different power grid components, such as power transformers.
The financial impact associated with it includes high operating and maintenance costs. In addition, according to experts, as the global temperature increases, there will be more cases of frequent blackouts.
How does climate change impact transportation?
Thanks to the transportation infrastructure, it is possible to stay interconnected. The impact of climate change on the transportation sector is not only economical but also societal. For instance, in 2017, 50 flights in Phoenix were grounded due to high temperatures. The officials cited the reasons for it as regulatory and physical. If the climate keeps changing, shifting towards higher temperatures and no changes are made in the air mode of transportation, by 2050, it is expected that 500-2,200 flights will be grounded. Furthermore, it will impact 40,000 to 185,000 passengers. Also, delays in air transportation have a very high economic cost associated with it.
Even though climate change affects other modes of transportation, such as road and water transportation, the aviation industry will face the highest brunt of it.
Water supply/wastewater systems and climate change
Disasters such as floods and hurricanes can have a lasting and profound impact on drinking water facilities. The recovery period for the same is long. It not only limits the drinking water but also contaminates the water. Furthermore, it can give rise to waterborne diseases too.
Similarly, due to climate change, wastewater systems have a tough time functioning correctly. For instance, climate change can cause drought, which results in inadequate sewer flow, which can block it and prevent the processing of different kinds of waste.
The need to create climate-resilient infrastructure
Climate-resilient infrastructure is the need of the hour. Such infrastructure is planned, designed, and later operated so that it is prepared for climate change and adapts to it. Climate resilient infrastructure. In addition to withstanding climate change, it also can engage in quick recovery after facing a disruption. Even though it might not be able to eliminate the impact of climate change, it reduces the disturbance. Both structural adaptation and management adaptation measures are required to build climate-resilient infrastructure.
Further, the public and private investment might need to be mobilised to build such infrastructures. Additionally, an enabling environment is a must to create climate-resilient infrastructure.