Climate Change Report Highlights Risks to U.K. Ports

Credit: MCCIP

Published Jan 26, 2020 5:31 PM by The Maritime Executive

The Marine Climate Change Impacts Partnership (MCCIP) has released a report on the current and future impacts of climate change in the U.K., noting that disruption to operations could occur, especially in ports, which are potentially sensitive to weather-related disruption (including wind, heat, cold and fog).

The MCCIP Report Card summarizes information from 26 individual, peer-reviewed scientific reports commissioned by MCCIP and written by scientists from across the U.K., providing detailed evidence of observed and projected climate-change impacts which highlight emerging issues and knowledge gaps. 

There Report Card states that there is clear evidence that warming seas, reduced oxygen, ocean acidification and sea-level rise are already affecting U.K. coasts and seas. Increasingly, these changes are having an impact on food webs, with effects seen in seabed-dwelling species, as well as plankton, fish, birds and mammals.

The upper range for the latest U.K. sea-level rise projections is higher than previous estimates, implying an increased flood risk. Oxygen concentrations in U.K. seas are projected to decline more than the global average, especially in the North Sea. 

Marine consultancy ABPmer prepared the Transport and Infrastructure scientific review for the MCCIP Report Card, evaluating the current and potential impacts of climate change on coastal and marine transport and infrastructure. Major risks include enhanced erosion and flood risk resulting from sea-level rise, leading to a requirement for (costly) coastal defense improvements or re-siting of coastal infrastructure and greater potential for damage to structures associated with larger extreme waves.

Any changes in storm activity and wind speeds or wave heights will impact on operations such as berthing, pilot boarding and cargo handling. Any local increases in the number of fog days will
similarly have implications for pilotage activities and safety generally.

Some of the other identified risks include:

• An increase in the risk of flooding, especially related to sea level rise;
• Significant changes in weather paths affecting cargo operations and transport. Extreme heat and cold also has the potential to adversely affect these operations;
• Power outages caused by damage to the distribution network;
• Greater pressure on drainage systems and pluvial flooding associated with extreme rainfall events;
• Increased water demand; summer water shortages potentially affecting locking activities;
• Increased summer cooling demands, especially buildings becoming uncomfortably hot;
• International supply chain effects on impacts and exports; and
• Weather-related disruption to inland distribution networks that could result in knock-on effects within the port.

However, climate change also has the potential to bring some benefit, states the Report Card. For example, while annual maximum significant wave height may increase in places, the report suggests that average significant wave height may reduce, and this could improve access windows for at-sea working to be conducted safely.

Last week, a study led by the University of Southern California claimed that around 13 million people could be forced inland in the U.S. due to the rising sea levels expected by 2100.

The Report Card is available here