TT Talk - Acting on climate change

Storm Map - 3D Rendering

Predicted impacts on ports and waterways from climate change present a real risk to local, national and global economies. Disruption is increasingly being seen from extreme weather events, causing damage to infrastructure or equipment, injuries and fatalities. However, account needs to be taken of incremental changes, such as increases in air and water temperatures, rising sea levels and seasonal rainfall intensities.

In considering incident data relating to extreme weather, there is a concerning picture of significant disruption to the global supply chain industry. The widely recognised changing global weather patterns now demands serious attention to the potential impacts these have on all logistics operations, most particularly at the ship/port interface.

Climate models

Climate model predictions generally evidence an overall warming of the planet, which in turn drive changes in weather patterns and increases in average sea levels.

Such models necessarily reflect complex physical properties of the earth’s climate and draw on scientific laws, and therefore build in levels of uncertainty. In engaging with these models in the transport and logistics industry, we are looking to predict what the climate could look like in the immediate, medium and long term to plan and adapt infrastructure and operations to accommodate any predicted changes.

Climate impacts

The impacts of these modelled climate changes vary depending upon your location on the planet. Nevertheless, as a generality for port and terminal infrastructure, there is likely increasing vulnerability to:

  • Flooding from rising sea-level and increased intensity of storm surges or heavy rainfall that may exceed the design capacity of the storm water drainage system;
  • High winds resulting in damage to infrastructure and assets, not to mention operational disruption due to limitations on the safe working windspeed of the port or terminal assets;
  • High temperatures that exceed operational ranges of the asset that may result in asset failure or increased fire risk, together with welfare considerations for workforce in high temperatures.

These impacts are being felt now around the globe and the climate model predictions indicate that they are likely to grow in significance.

Impacts are being felt now around the globe and the climate model predictions indicate that they are likely to grow in significance

Uncertain future

Inherently, climate and related parameters play a significant part in the design of port and terminal infrastructure. Therefore, in order to develop and maintain facilities for the future it is necessary to be clear on the climate parameters that are being or have been considered. However, the variation in the higher and lower band climate predictions are significant, driven by the societal responses to the overall reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

This variation evident in the models presents challenge, since development and asset management plans must have a degree of flexibility built in to accommodate this uncertainty, providing the ability to adapt infrastructure and assets as the climate actually changes and climate models advance.

Where to start

Often when initiating a large-scale project, especially with the complexity of potential climate change adaptation, simply getting started is daunting. Reliance necessarily has to be placed on one of a growing number of specialist consultancies with the experience in this industry, able to assist in making sense of the climate models and the potential impacts. However, there are some basic steps that can be done to help you on this journey, including:

  • Making sense of the data – ports and terminals typically gather vast amounts of data during their normal operation, which can provide valuable insight to the current climate impacts that your facility is experiencing. Simply recording and monitoring the number and duration of things, such as down time caused by high winds or storms, will provide some insight overtime on climate impacts.
  • Long-term effects – understanding the criticality of your assets and infrastructure, considering the impact on the operation of an outage and the susceptibility of individual assets to climate change, is necessary risk assessment. This systematic review of the facility could provide the insight needed to prioritise adaptation measures.

Climate change adaptation journey

Climate change adaptation and climate resilience is not a ‘one-time’ exercise; it requires a continuous review of the climate models, the climate risk assessment and any programme of actions to ensure not only resilience but also efficient allocation of resources. Therefore, climate change adaptation should be thought of as a continuous cycle of review and planning on a journey to an increased resilience to the impacts of climate change. Such adaptive management can be depicted as in this diagram:

These essential steps are, thus:

  1. Understanding climate change, specifically seeking appreciation of the local impacts from global and regional analyses;
  2. Developing and logging awareness of the hazards and risks in your geographical location;
  3. Planning for climate adaptation to address the new hazards and risks associated with the changing climate;
  4. Cyclical implementation of adaptation plans;
  5. Continuous review of effectiveness of the planned and implemented measures against new published climate data and local recorded climate impact data.
Climate change adaptation and climate resilience is not a ‘one-time’ exercise

Key takeaways

  1. Climate change adaptation is inevitably a journey and each organisation and geographical location is likely to face challenges bespoke to their facilities and operations.
  2. Resilience to a changing climate requires a focused approach that considers the impacts of climate change at a whole business risk level.
  3. The data, possible impacts and adaptation options can be complex. However, there are specialist consultancies with expertise to assist wherever you are on this climate adaption journey.
  4. The age and long life expectancy of port infrastructure and assets require diligent engagement with climate change impacts to ensure that appropriate strategies and plans are formulated and adopted.
Climate change adaptation is inevitably a journey and each organisation and geographical location is likely to face challenges


If you would like further information, or have any comments, please email us, or take this opportunity to forward to any others who you may feel would be interested.

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Josh Finch

TT Club