“Climate change is going to have a very large effect on the ability to extract, distribute, [and] refine energy—in every sector,” says Cleo Paskal
, associate fellow for the Energy, Environment, and Development Programme
at Chatham House. “You’re going to very likely see increasing instability,” she tells ECSP Director Geoff Dabelko in this video interview.
When hydroelectric dams are built, Paskal explains, planners inspect the site to determine the river flow, precipitation levels, and similar measures. But with climate change, “those constants have now all become variables, so your hydro generation is going to be severely affected.”
Last year, India “had an 8 percent decline in the ability to generate hydroelectricity because of changing precipitation patterns. This year…it looks like it’s going to be 12 percent because the monsoon is failing.”
Coastal nuclear power plants will face rising sea levels, increasing storm surges, coastal erosion, while those on rivers will find their supply of cooling water declining and warming. “In the summer of 2003, over a dozen French nuclear plants, because it was so hot, had to power down or shut off,” greatly disrupting the country’s energy supply, Paskal explains. “The predictions are that the temperatures that we saw in 2003 will be a one-in-two year event by 2040.”
Offshore oil and natural gas platforms in the Gulf of Mexico are now subject to increasingly strong hurricanes. “Katrina and Rita destroyed over 400 platforms, as well as refining capacity onshore. That creates a global spike in energy prices apart from having to rebuild the infrastructure.”
Meanwhile, offshore rigs in the Niger Delta are vulnerable to sea-level rise and storm surges, while infrastructure built in the Arctic could be at risk as the permafrost continues to melt.