In the context of climate change adaptation, the infrastrcutrue and buildings fall under the following sub-categories:
Technical support systems (including roads, ports, bridges, water supply and sanitation, and telecommunications)
Infrastructure, including infrastructure for transport, water and sewage as well as power grid, and gas and communication network, are already now quite resilient to weather and also extreme weather events. In the future, it can be seen the average annual changes in climate parameters do not have any significant impacts on infrastructure. However, the more frequent and severe extreme weather events, such as heavy rainfalls, storms and heat waves can cause situations that disrupt the operation of the infrastructure.
The climate change induced impacts on transport infrastructure are more related to higher requirement for maintenance of the infrastructure. However, this might increase in some parts and decrease on the other. Therefore it is hard to anticipate whether in the future there will be more costs or cost savings from maintenance. For example, there will be less need for snow ploughing but more need for de-icing. Also, extreme weather events cause the higher costs of maintenance rather than damages to the infrastructure. For example, the storms do not break but rather bring wind-throw and litter on the roads, ports, bridges, and airports. However, there are some circumstances caused by the climate change that might damage infrastructure, such as rail track buckling due to heat waves or bridge scouring due flooding.
Climate change can also cause some positive impacts on water and sewage infrastructure that might be offset by some other negative impacts. For example the positive effects from fewer spring flooding reduce the load on the storm water collection system and wastewater treatment, and thus lower the costs. At the same time, the rainfall is expected to increase also during the winters that increases load on the storm water collection system and wastewater treatment. Also, the level of the upper aquifer rises, which will bring more water to the wells. But a lack of spring flooding, and the possible high consumption of water in the periods of droughts might offset this positive impact.
Climatic factors influence communication and gas network primarily indirectly as the network performance is dependent on the availability of electricity. Power grid, however, is mainly influenced by extreme weather events, such as storms, that damage overhead lines, in particular. Thus, the communication and gas networks are potentially threatened only by power cuts caused by extreme weather conditions. However, the power grid will be significantly modified as the overhead lines will be replaced with cables (underground or in the air). Therefore, after 2030 power cuts caused by heavy storms are rather unlikely. Nevertheless, the mild winters might influence the maintenance of the land under air cables. Also, increase of days with glazed frost might bring along ice storms that cover the cables and other parts of outdoor power grid with thick ice that can inflict damage on power grid and cause malfunctions.
Buildings stock in Estonia compared to other EU member states is characterised by high energy consumption and low quality. Majority of apartment buildings are concrete element buildings built during the period of 1961–1990 and accommodating 72% of country’s appartments and 88% of living spaces. High contrasts describe also commercial sector buildings where future energy consumption will depend on the year a building dates from and can in case of old buildings result in stagnation of energy consumption on a high level. Construction of new buildings has been slow and with the uneven quality. Low quality and high age makes the building stock more vulnerable to climate change impacts.
Climate change impacts many aspects of buildings including energy efficiency, indoor climate as well as structures and construction materials. Because of this it is crucial to consider climate change impacts when planning new buildings and/or refurbishing existing building stock. Buildings are the most affected by increase of the frequency of extreme precipitation, heat waves through the whole country and flooding events of coastal areas. The rise in annual average temperature may as a positive effect lower the average heat consumption but at the same time raise cooling demand and with that electricity consumption. High temperatures have the biggest impact on office buildings and hospitals, buildings where people are staying during the daytime and are unable to choose/change their location, making the control of overheating more important than in houses. The rise in precipitation affects many aspects of buildings, having a negative impact on indoor climate and energy efficiency as well as on construction materials. Sea level rise and extreme weather events may in the future cause more flooding with greater impacts making climate change adaptation especially crucial for coastal built up areas.
In the transport sector the main impacts are related to rise in precipitation and average winter temperatures that will have more permanent impacts from 2030 and 2050 onwards. The most vulnerable transport modes are road passenger transport and road freight both in rural areas and cities. The main negative aspects include the following: increasing number of traffic interruptions, risks related to icy roads and streets, lower bearing capacity of secondary roads and higher pedestrian and cyclist risks in traffic due to prolonged dark period. More frequent extreme weather episodes where accumulating impacts can lead to major hazards and challenge the whole transport system. As to positive long-term climate change the following can be highlighted: increased mobility and better access during winter period, prolonged season for cycling and walking, prolonged navigation period on the Baltic Sea as well as inland waterways.
The share of electric vehicles in Estonian and European vehicle stock is expected to increase considerably after 2030. Higher winter temperatures will further encourage the shift towards EV-s, however the EV-s are more vulnerable to disruptions in electricity supply and extreme weather episodes. Higher average temperatures and shorter period with snow cover can also lead to both positive and negative impacts – it will likely lead to increased demand in mobility of people and goods, both road and water-borne transport, which leads to general positive socio-economic impacts. However, it is also likely to increase traffic safety risks, increase the load on road network and energy demand. The impacts of unknown nature are related to prolonged vegetation period – how it will impact local agricultural and forestry production and related freight transport both regionally and internationally. Second, the impacts of climate change on domestic and international tourism and related transport demand are unclear. Third, the combination of impact of coastal processes and other climate conditions to accessibility to islands, coastal regions and smaller ports. Fourth, the vulnerability of transport technologies and fuels used in transport is of unknown nature.