IEA (2022), Climate Resilience Policy Indicator, IEA, Paris https://www.iea.org/reports/climate-resilience-policy-indicator, Licence: CC BY 4.0
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), climate risk results from the interaction of hazard, exposure and vulnerability. Hazard refers to the potential occurrence of climate-related physical events or trends that may cause damage and loss. Exposure indicates the presence of assets, services, resources and infrastructure that could be adversely affected. Vulnerability is the propensity or predisposition to be adversely affected.
This article assesses the level of climate hazard in terms of temperature, precipitation and cyclones for each IEA member and association country. Most of the data has been extracted from the IEA Weather for Energy Tracker and the INFORM Risk Index. The level of climate hazard of each country is determined by a combination of these four aspects: warming, floods, droughts and tropical cyclones.
Since the assessment does not cover all aspects of climate risk, the results may have limitations in capturing a full picture of climate risk for each country. For a more complete picture, the assessment will need to be expanded to include various climate hazards (such as, sea-level rise and melting glaciers) and other aspects of climate risk, exposure and vulnerability.
The last decade (2011-2020) was the warmest decade since records began in 1880. Eight out of the ten warmest years occurred during the last decade. The global mean temperature reached 1.2±0.1 °C above the pre-industrial levels (1850-1900) in 2020, which was the second‑warmest year on record. In particular, the Northern Hemisphere land and ocean surface temperatures were the highest on record. The temperature of northern Eurasia was more than five degrees above the average of 1981-2010, while south-western United States, northern and western South America and Central America saw a notable rise in temperature as well.
Warming temperatures pose a significant challenges to the majority of IEA member and association countries. During the past two decades, 34% of IEA member and association countries recorded a steeper increase in temperatures, over 0.042 °C per year while the world average was 0.031 °C. Turkey, Central Europe (including Slovak Republic, Austria, Czech Republic and Hungary), Poland and the Baltic countries saw the greatest increases to temperatures. Only four IEA countries, Canada, India, Ireland, and the United Kingdom, recorded a slower increase in temperature than 0.020 °C per year.
Many European countries including the Netherlands, Sweden and Finland had their warmest year in 2020. The annual mean temperature of Europe 2020 was the warmest year on record, at more than 1.6 °C above the 1981-2010 average. Major parts of Asia also saw a notable warmth in 2020. It was the eighth‑warmest year on record for China. Japan and Korea reached their heat record in 2020. For Australia, it was the fourth‑warmest year on record, while Mexico experienced the highest temperatures ever recorded in the months of May, July and November.
Rises in global temperatures could raise concerns about the impacts of climate hazards on the energy system. It could affect hydropower generation by accelerating snow and glacial melt and raising evaporation losses from reservoirs. It could also decrease electricity generation from thermal power plants and solar PV by derating capacity and causing difficulties in cooling. The rising temperatures alongside an increasing number of days of extreme heat may negatively affect the operational limits of transmission and distribution equipment and lead to higher losses, such as in August 2015, when heatwaves in Poland reduced the efficiency of transmission and distribution and led to an electricity shortage. Higher energy demand for cooling purposes can also impact on peak demand and may require changes to grid operation and maintenance practices. For instance, Australia’s extreme heatwave in January 2019 increased energy demand for cooling and prompted load shedding.
Climate change is increasing spatial variation in precipitation patterns and is expected to make wet regions wetter and dry regions drier in general although there could be a few exceptions. Precipitation averaged over the mid-latitude land areas of the Northern Hemisphere has increased since 1951, while other areas such as Southeast Asia and some parts of Africa have observed a decrease in precipitation.
Higher greenhouse gas concentrations would make regional variations even more pronounced. Under a high greenhouse gas concentration scenario, high latitudes and the equatorial Pacific region are likely to experience an increase in annual mean precipitation for the rest of the century. In contrast, in many mid-latitude and dry subtropical regions, the mean precipitation is likely to decrease. For instance, the Mediterranean region, which has already experienced an increase in droughts, may see increases in drought frequency and magnitude under a high greenhouse gas concentration scenario, which is associated with a warming level higher than 2 °C.
With the spatial variation in precipitation patterns, some locations are likely to see an increase in the number of heavy precipitation events. The upward trends in heavy precipitation and discharge would pose greater risks of flooding in some river catchments. For instance, persistent high rainfall in the Yangtze River catchment in China caused severe flooding in 2020.
The shift in precipitation patterns and the projected increase in the frequency of floods and droughts in some countries directly affect energy supply and demand. For instance, increased seasonal and annual variability in rainfall, more frequent heavy rainfalls or severe droughts, can pose significant challenges to the operation and planning of hydropower systems. Thermal power plants that use freshwater as a coolant can be critically affected by the shift in precipitation patterns and droughts. Severe water shortages in India in 2016 due to droughts led to the shutdown of 18 power plants by limiting the availability of cooling water. In some countries, the potential application of new technologies, such as carbon capture, use and storage, may also be constrained due to the additional water intensity they add to power plants. The increasing frequency of extreme precipitation and its associated events, such as floods, soil erosion, landslides and rock falls, could also damage transmission and distribution systems. Droughts can also increase energy demand for water supply, requiring more energy for water pumping or desalination.
The increasing probability of extreme precipitation events, which is one of the major causes of flooding, is an added challenge for most IEA member and association countries. Indeed, 87% of IEA member and association countries already have a medium or high level of exposure to floods. Particularly, Thailand, China, India, Brazil, Indonesia, Hungary and Mexico are more exposed to floods than others. Certain countries in Scandinavia (Norway, Denmark and Finland) or with a small territory (Luxembourg and Singapore) are the least exposed to the risk of floods.
On the other hand, climate change is projected to limit water availability in presently dry regions under a high greenhouse gas concentration scenario, increasing the frequency of droughts by the end of the 21st century. Although there is low confidence in observed global trends in droughts due to lack of observations to date and geographical inconsistencies, some countries are considered more vulnerable to a risk of droughts than others. Among the IEA member and association countries, India and South Africa are particularly exposed to droughts. Indeed, the frequency and spread of droughts have substantially increased in India due to the decrease in monsoon rainfall over the past 60-70 years. In South Africa, the Northern and Eastern Cape Provinces experienced long-term droughts in 2020 despite heavy local rainfall in summer. Some countries such as Australia, Morocco and Thailand have medium-level risks. Over 60% of the IEA countries are estimated to have low risks of droughts.
Tropical cyclone is the general term for a strong, large-scale disturbance that originates over tropical oceans. It is called a tropical storm if it features one-minute average surface winds between 18 and 32 metres per second. If it is beyond 32 metres per second, a tropical cyclone is called a hurricane, typhoon, or cyclone, depending on the geographic location.
The world is likely to experience more frequent intense tropical cyclones with higher peak wind intensity and precipitation than the historical average, even while the total number of tropical cyclones may not change or even decrease. Records already show an increasing trend in intense tropical cyclone activity since 1970 in some regions.
Cyclones can have major impacts on energy systems. Coastal floods due to storm surges can severely affect coastal infrastructure such as electricity generation plants, substations and refineries, while maritime infrastructure, such as offshore wind plants, is particularly exposed. Cyclones can also destroy transmission lines and substations, leading to massive electricity outages. For instance, cyclones Amphan, Faxai and Maysak prompted massive electricity network failures in India, Japan and Korea respectively in 2020.
The projected increase in the frequency of intense tropical cyclones are a threat to some IEA member and association countries. Although three‑quarters of IEA member and association countries are rarely exposed to tropical cyclones (low level), a quarter of the IEA member and association countries are greatly suffering from their devastating impacts (high and medium level). IEA member and association countries in East Asia (Japan, Korea and China), North America (the United States and Mexico) and India are especially exposed to tropical cyclones.
The aggregated level of climate hazard in four areas (warming, flood, drought and tropical cyclone) for each country can show which countries are more exposed to climate hazards than others. By scoring the level of climate hazard in each area (If “low”, it scores “0”; if “medium”, it scores “1”; if “high”, it scores 2) and aggregating the points from all four areas, countries are ranked from “high” to “low” (If below 2, it is “low”; if from 2-4, it is “medium-low”; if from 4-6, it is “medium-high”; if over or equivalent to 6, it is “high”). Among the IEA member and association countries, China, India and Mexico are ranked as high while Ireland, Luxembourg, Norway, Singapore and the United Kingdom are estimated to have a low level of climate hazards overall.
Although there are only three countries ranked high in terms of the aggregated level of climate hazard, it means a significant share of the global population is exposed to a high level of climate hazard. These three countries are home to over 2.9 billion people which accounts for 38% of the world population and 62% of the total population of IEA member and association countries. In addition, the total population of the countries ranked high or medium-high in terms of overall climate hazard accounts for 53% of the world population and 86% of the total population of IEA member and association countries.
It is notable that a majority of energy supply and consumption comes from countries with high or medium-high level of climate hazard. These countries account for 80% of the total energy supply and 79% of the total final energy consumption of IEA member of association countries. These numbers are equivalent to 57% and 55% of the world’s total energy supply and total final energy consumption respectively.