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Wi-fi technology faces disruption from climate change

By Laura Brown - 10 May 2011 15:50:1 GMT
Wi-fi technology faces disruption from climate change

Wi-fi and mobile phone networks could face disruption from climate change a report from the UK government warns, and the cost for firms could run into the billions.

The research looked at the potential impact on the UK economy from changes in temperature and the environment if projected changes in the global climate come to fruition.

By examining the impact on infrastructure, the report by the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) argues operators, owners of transport and communications networks, energy and power suppliers will have to incorporate ways and designs to tackle problems climate change could cause. From flood causing power failures, stopping goods or resources being transported around the country, freezing conditions disrupting travel or droughts damaging wildlife and reducing water levels, Environment minister Caroline Spelman warned planning and designers will have to increasingly consider extreme weather conditions.

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.

''£200bn is expected to be invested in the UK's infrastructure over the next five years. But if the facilities which support our society cannot cope with floods, droughts, or freezing winters then that money will have been wasted.''

Criticism has already been levelled at infrastructure managers for their inability to cope with extreme conditions. The freezing weather of 2009 and 2010 led to cancelled flights and trains, treacherous driving conditions and power cuts across the UK and Europe. The RSA Insurance Groups estimated the cost to the UK economy from the 2009/2010 Big Freeze as up to £30 billion, with people unable to go to work or deliver goods.

The impact on technology, particularly wi-fi should not be underestimates, said Ruth Davis Chief policy adviser to Greenpeace.

''The UK will not be immune, and the government's discovery that one of the most important sectors for the UK's economic recovery - electronic communications - could be affected by climate change, shows just how vital it is for our prosperity that we curb emissions now.''