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Floods prove need for climate-resilient engineering

ThamesBarrierBritain’s infrastructure will need innovative engineering in years to come to better protect the country from threats caused by climate change.

“The floods of last month, and the collapse of bridges, show us how much a resilient infrastructure matters,” said Environment Secretary Hilary Benn while speaking at a joint Defra (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) and Engineering the Future Conference. “Protecting ourselves against negative impacts, and also taking advantage of the benefits of a changing climate, is all part of building Britain’s future.”

Benn called on the engineering sector to lead the way in building Britain’s future infrastructure — from transport networks to nuclear power stations — to withstand the changes to our climate.

“The UK’s engineering sector is vital to tackling this challenge and is well-placed lead in designing and engineering climate resilient and low carbon infrastructure for global markets, as well as the UK,” he said.

Last summer, Defra published its “Climate Change Projections 09,” based on Met Office science. The report identified the changes the UK might face with warmer and wetter winters, hotter and drier summers, increased risk of coastal erosion and more severe weather events such as flooding and heat waves.

Already, all 10 of the hottest years on record globally have been since 1990, and the extreme weather experienced in recent years — most notably, the recent flooding in Cumbria — has tested the resilience of the country’s infrastructure.

The Defra/engineering conference brought together senior engineers from the Engineering the Future group — as well as executives from across industry, government policy and academia — to look at the global opportunities for the UK’s engineering sector in climate change adaptation, identify the challenges to action and help to shape joint efforts between government and the engineering profession.

“Resilience in the face of climate change is a challenge all engineers must rise to,” said Robert Mair, senior vice president of the Royal Academy of Engineering. “In partnership with our customers, policy makers and the users of the infrastructure we provide, engineers can provide the solutions that will protect us from the worst effects of climate change. This is essential to maintaining and developing our modern way of life, as well as sharing the benefits of progress equitably across the world. The challenge has never been greater for engineering.”

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