Authors: Justin Doran, Thomas McDermott, Paul Kilgarriff, Swenja Surminski and Mauricio Perez Alaniz
Summary: Climate change is likely to lead to physical changes in temperature and precipitation and sea level rise, and Ireland is already experiencing the effects of climate change on its weather patterns. This project identifies several interacting factors that should be considered in designing efficient climate change adaptation strategies.
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Climate change is likely to lead to physical changes in temperature and precipitation and sea level rise, and Ireland is already experiencing the effects of climate change on its weather patterns. These changes bring both risks and opportunities for the Irish economy and for society more broadly. Investment decisions and economic activity will be sensitive to both changes in average conditions and changes in the frequency of extremes. In particular, increasing flood risk has been identified as one of the main threats to Ireland from climate change. Moreover, dealing with flood risk already creates numerous policy challenges, for instance related to insurance, urban planning and flood relief schemes. These challenges are likely to be exacerbated by climate change. Equally important for informing policy is to understand current exposure and vulnerability to these hazards; how these will evolve in response to changing risk profiles and new information about risk; and how policy can influence these processes. These questions are the focus of this report.
This project identifies several interacting factors that should be considered in designing efficient climate change adaptation strategies. These correspond to questions about how much adaptation should be undertaken, and at what cost, and a related set of questions about who bears the burden of the costs associated with climate change impacts and how exposure to risk is evolving over time and across socioeconomic groups. Particularly urgent from a policy perspective is the need to avoid locking in future vulnerability. Planning decisions made today will likely affect the level of exposure to climate risk for decades to come. However, some adaptation decisions will need to be made now, in spite of the uncertainty around climate impacts. Our research deals directly with these policy issues, related to the process of translating risk assessment into adaptation action at the local level, as well as determining the appropriate role for the private sector, and in particular the role of insurance as a key mechanism to cope with climate risk.
Along with new empirical evidence on the costs of flooding and exposure to flood risk, this project also makes policy recommendations in relation to flood insurance and local decision making. We argue that the key to sustainable flood insurance is improved data sharing between the government, insurers and other sectors. The creation of a shared data hub on flood risk would increase transparency and support risk reduction efforts, helping to secure affordable, available and sustainable insurance for the future. Second, in relation to decision making at the local level, our case study of flood risk management in Cork city highlights that, despite ever-more accurate data and a range of decision frameworks, it is normative questions, such as setting “acceptable risk levels” and identifying “adequate” protection levels, that determine what action is taken. Broader buy-in and stakeholder participation as part of climate risk assessments offers an opportunity to create a shared understanding of the problem and an informed evaluation of options for remedial action.https://www.epa.ie/media/epa-2020/publications/research/Research-302-thumbnail.JPG