Last edited 24 Mar 2015

UK climate change risk assessment

The UK Climate Change Risk Assessment (CCRA) is an analysis of the opportunities and threats faced by humanity, habitats, landscapes and services during the next century as a result of global climate change. The CCRA is considered to be an important component of the government’s response to the Climate Change Act 2008 which set legally-binding targets for emissions, created new powers, changed the institutional framework, established systems to ensure accountability and addressed resilience to climate change.

The Climate Change Risk Assessment was published by the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) on 25 January 2012. It was the first assessment of its kind in the UK and the first in a five year cycle of assessments. The next assessment is due to be published in 2017 and will include new climate observations and provide an improved understanding of the key issues.

The Climate Change Risk Assessment can be used to evaluate the risks posed by climate change in the future, to compare and prioritise the potential risks and to provide evidence to the government, businesses, local authorities and other organisations in making decisions regarding policies and actions.

This assessment took into account more than 700 potential risks and selected around 100 risks for detailed analysis and in-depth review to give an understanding of how a changing climate may impact the UK up to the year 2100.

The key sectors assessed were:

  • Agriculture.
  • Biodiversity and ecosystem services.
  • Built environment.
  • Business, industry and services.
  • Energy.
  • Floods and coastal erosion.
  • Forestry.
  • Health.
  • Marine and fisheries.
  • Water.

These sectors were analysed on the basis of the likelihood, scale of their potential consequences and the urgency with which action may be required to address them.

At local and regional levels, the magnitude and timing of climate change impacts remain uncertain due to the complexity of modelling the climate system and uncertainty regarding future global emissions of greenhouse gases. However, some key messages have emerged:

  • Climate change and warming will continue over the next century.
  • The UK is vulnerable to extreme weather conditions, including heat waves and floods.
  • UK water resources are projected to come under increased pressure.
  • Potential health benefits and threats can be related to climate change.
  • There will be increased pressure on sensitive ecosystems.
  • There are potential opportunities for agriculture and other businesses.
  • There are considerable gaps in climate change evidence, but there is sufficient evidence to identify a range of possible outcomes that can inform adaptation policies and planning.
  • The UK is locked into a certain amount of warming due to inertia in the global climate system.
  • Adaptation and mitigation are highlighted as important parts in combating future greenhouse gas emissions.

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