On the 18th January the Government published their latest review of the risk that climate change poses to the UK, the UK Climate Change Risk Assessment 2017. The report, legally required by the 2008 Climate Change Act, and drawing heavily on evidence submitted by the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), concluded that flooding, overheating in homes and hospitals, and risks to food production were the biggest risks the country faces. However, whilst climate change is often perceived as a ‘future’ issue, the report emphasised how we are already seeing instances of extreme weather at ever closer intervals – climate change is happening in the here and now, and we need to start adapting.
The CCC’s evidence submitted to the government, the UK Climate Change Risk Assessment 2017 Evidence Report, published in July 2016, identified six key risks. Of these, two were highlighted as particularly high risk: a) flooding and coastal change risks to communities, businesses and infrastructure, and b) the risks to health, well-being and productivity from high temperatures. The CCC also highlighted the threats to food production, the public water supply (with knock on effects on agriculture, energy generation and industry), and natural capital.
So why is there such an increased risk of flooding resulting from climate change? The answer is two-fold. Firstly, a warmer atmosphere can hold more moisture, leading to heavier rainfall and more frequent flooding. This rise in temperature will also have direct impact on public health, through the increased risk of overheating in homes and hospitals. However, the warming atmosphere is also causing the ice caps to melt, leading to a projected sea level rise of 50-100 centimetres around our coasts by 2100. This, of course, will exacerbate flood risks and accelerate the process of coastal change for exposed and low-lying communities.
Lord Krebs, reflecting on the CCC’s evidence, said: ‘Our report sets out the risks, and now we hand it over to the government and others to take action, here and now, to manage these urgent risks from climate change.’ It is in the government’s recent report that they set out how they will respond.
To mitigate the risk posed by flooding, the government promises to ensure there ‘are long-term strategies in place to address projected risks to people, communities and buildings’, and to deliver ‘more natural flood management and [develop] a more integrated approach in high-risk catchments’. The government point to the National Flood Resilience Review, published in September 2016, and the Property Flood Resilience Action Plan which sets out property-level protection measures as evidence of this promise. Strengthened planning legislation in the area of sustainable urban drainage systems is also highlighted, as well as natural flood management demonstration projects, including at Pickering in Yorkshire and Holnicote in Somerset. The government emphasise, however, that their ‘strategies are most effective when government, communities, local authorities and the private sector work together to ensure that we have a shared understanding of future risks and who is best placed to manage them.’
With yet another year of record warmth predicted, and global temperature rise pushing 1 degree already, it is no wonder that we are already starting to see the effects of climate change on our shores. This report serves to emphasise, yet again, the severity of threat we are facing. Let us hope that it galvanises concrete actions to help UK communities and businesses adapt to the threat, and protect their natural capital.
Ambiental take an active role in research around how climate change is affecting flood risk. We held event last June at the British Library which discussed these risks in greater depth. For any more information on climate change or flood risk please feel free to get in touch with us:
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