Airports are working hard to reduce their impact on climate change. But more needs to be done to make them ready for its effects.
In our work helping airports to assess and respond to climate risk, we can foresee several effects of climate change which are likely to become key threats.These hazards fall into two areas: chronic risks, due slow, sustained changes in weather patterns; and acute risks, based on individual extreme weather events.
Another key obstacle is the difficulty of turning the mass of climate data into a clear, compelling business case. Before climate resilience can become a priority, airport operators need a credible way to assess – and communicate – the risk.
Understanding hazard exposure based on the climate today – and in the near-term future – is relatively straightforward, thanks to digital tools like Twinn Climate Intelligence App.
Historical and real-time data can be integrated and visualised to give a clear view of risk, and model likely scenarios for slow, chronic climate effects.
Forecasting future exposure to extreme weather events is more challenging. Models rely on historical data and, as the kind of change we’re seeing to weather systems has never happened before, climate scientists have no precedent to refer to.
Instead of detailed predictions, therefore, we base our long-term roadmaps for airport resilience around a balance of probabilities. This scenario analysis approach allows us to explore alternatives for what might happen in the future, and understand what will drive those events.
We can model possible outcomes based on a range of severities – and understand what would happen in best and worst-case scenarios. Which assumptions the operator will use depends on the strategic importance of the airport, and their own attitude to risk.
As climate-related disruption becomes more frequent still, it seems likely that investors will take a keen interest in this position – and the risk profile carried by airport operators worldwide.
Even in the absence of public or regulatory pressure, there will be a growing number of questions to be answered – making climate resilience planning more of a priority. Change is coming, and good quality data and disclosure will be absolutely key.
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