Sarah Griffiths, BusinessGreen, 09 Nov 2007
With a storm surge threatening to engulf the Norfolk coast, experts yesterday expressed surprise and disappointment that the UK government is not fully backing a new Global Monitoring for the Environment and Security (GMES) EU satellite project, designed to provide independent climate change information and weather warnings for policy makers.
“GMES could make a contribution of critical importance to our response to climate change,” said Professor Alan O’Neill, director of the National Centre for Earth Observation, at a roundtable event hosted by IT firm LogicaCMG yesterday to discuss the project. “Providing assured continuity of crucial data sets, it could allow us to use information, to understand and predict climate change. Plus there are commercial benefits.”
Professor David Crichton, an economist, lecturer and author on climate change and the insurance industry, said improved flood risk mapping, part of GMES’ mandate, would help the insurance industry in better determining premiums.
“Insurance risks are worldwide,” Crichton continued. “GMES could enable us to understand where risks and investments are.”
With 89 major hospitals and over 2,000 schools built on flood plains, as well as many homes and businesses, Crichton emphasised there is scope to deliver enormous financial savings in adapting buildings to flood risk and predicting when adverse weather will occur.
However, experts warned the UK is in danger of failing to fully exploit these potential benefits because of the government’s lukewarm support of the European Space Agency, which will oversee much of the project. Crichton said the failure to fully support the project was indicative of a government approach that concentrated too much on mitigation and not enough on adaptation.
Rt Hon Michael Jack, chairman of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee, signalled his support for the scheme, claiming there was a “thirst for predictability” surrounding climate change.
Jack was echoed by a spokesman for Network Rail who claimed companies’ building infrastructure would benefit from GMES because they would know which materials would withstand climate change in the future, saving money on subsequent repairs.
“Without accurate climate change forecasting, businesses will not be able to plan accurately and will suffer many of the same consequences of climate change as citizens,” said a spokesperson for IT industry trade association Intellect. “Conversely, accurate climate change forecasting could give businesses a competitive edge.”