Gov’t Warns Of Climate Change Threat To Wi-Fi

Floods, droughts and freezing winters caused by climate change could have an adverse effect on Britain’s communications networks – in particular Wi-Fi signals – according to the UK government’s environment secretary Caroline Spelman.

Presenting the government’s ‘Climate Resilient Infrastructure‘ report at Blackfriars Station in London on Monday, Spelman said that higher temperatures can reduce the range of wireless communications, heavy rainstorms can impact the reliability of the signal, and drier summers and wetter winters may cause greater subsidence, damaging masts, towers and underground cables.

Investing in long-term infrastructure

“Our economy is built on effective transport and communications networks and reliable energy and water supplies. But the economy cannot grow if there are repeated power failures, or goods cannot be transported because roads are flooded and railways have buckled, or if intense rainfall or high temperatures disrupt Wi-Fi signals,” she said.

The government plans to invest £200 billion in the UK’s infrastructure over the next five years, and Spelman said this should be designed to function long into the future “when the climate is projected to be very different”. She emphasised that this challenge presents “great opportunities for British businesses” to develop new rugged ICT-based technologies that can withstand extreme weather conditions.

The report also suggests that investment in climate-resilient infrastructure will help enhance the attractiveness of the UK for inward investment, benefiting the economy, businesses and the government. It cites research by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which suggests that each £1 spent on climate change adaptation delivers four times its value in terms of potential damage avoided.

Green growth strategy

The UK government has been under some pressure to set out a comprehensive green growth strategy, following Prime Minister David Cameron’s pledge to make the coalition the “greenest government ever”. During the budget in March, the government announced an initial capitalisation of the Green Investment Bank of £3 billion, in a bid to help the UK become a world leader in green energy.

However, the public sector ICT association Socitm accused chancellor George Osborne of missing several opportunities to reduce carbon emissions by offering investment and incentives to local authorities. Socitm believes that measures to encourage the establishment of green data centres and promote digitally assisted communications to reduce travel costs would reduce the economy’s carbon footprint.

Meanwhile, green pressure group the Aldersgate Group has warned that the UK is losing momentum to emerging economies in green sectors. In an open letter to the chancellor back in February, it cited a study published by the United Nations which found that a global investment of 2 percent of GDP in the green economy “could unleash economic growth and positive social outcomes, while keeping humanity’s planetary footprint within sustainable boundaries”.

“Other governments around the world are implementing plans to attract global investment in environmental technologies and the UK is losing momentum in this green economy race,” the group said in the letter.

Sophie Curtis

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