Using Risk Analysis to measure the impact of climate change

New measures were published by the UK Government in November 2009 to protect communities at risk from ‘flash’ flooding when drains get overwhelmed by sudden downpours.  The Flood & Water Management Bill going before Parliament will give new powers to local authorities to manage surface water.  Environment Secretary Hilary Benn said, “We’ll see more severe weather as climate change takes hold, with heavier rainfall and potential flooding. The weather in the last couple of weeks has shown that this risk is very real.” 

Recent events in Cumbria in the UK suggest climate change really should be at the top of the agenda, and this new bill will certainly go some way to managing the risk associated with it.

Risk analysis has its place in determining the risk associated with climate change, and Palisade’s risk modeling software has helped numerous organizations develop reports on likely outcomes. Cambridge University’s Judge Business School recently used @RISK to provide key input to the Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change. Released in 2006, this report undertaken by the British government by Lord Stern discusses the effect of climate change and global warming on the world economy and is the largest and most widely referenced report of its kind.

They researched issues such as the impacts of the sea level rising and increases in temperature making land infertile or unfarmable, and balanced these against the costs of various options available to tackle global warming.  

At one end of the scale, doing nothing costs nothing, but the environmental consequences will be high. However, activity that reduces the severity of the impacts may itself be very expensive. The aim of the @RISK model was to enable people to make informed decisions on the optimum way to deal with climate change (ie how much to cut back on damaging activity and what methods to use).

@RISK risk simulation software also helped researchers tackle a key problem associated with investigating climate change, namely that the different effects of the various factors which influence it are themselves, undetermined. For example, the historical evidence does not pin down exactly how much global temperatures will increase if CO2 emissions double. @RISK enabled researchers to quantify this uncertainty in order that they have a measurement of the accuracy of their findings.

Risk analysis models should go some way to determining outcomes, and potentially help us prepare for the tragic events that have unfolded in recent days in the UK.

Craig Ferri
EMEA Managing Director of Risk & Decision Analysis

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