10 climate change lessons for the UK

By John Parnell

Flood defences, climate change, climate resilience

The Defra report calls for more flood and coastal defences such as the Thames Flood Barrier (Source: Flickr/LeonardoEastHastings)

The net effects of climate change in the UK will be negative, however there will be some benefits, according to a new report.

The first UK Climate Change Risk Assessment released by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) identifies several benefits such as fewer deaths in winter and the possibility to grow new crops.

However it also identifies a significant increase in the cost of flooding, a rise in water scarcity and indirect damage from climate change effects overseas.

The ten main findings of the report are below:

1. Body of evidence

The latest evidence shows that the UK will have higher average temperatures in summer and winter. There will be more rainfall in the winter and less in the summer.

2. Flooding risk to increase

Increased flood events are the single greatest tangible financial cost of climate change in the UK. The report estimates that the current annual flood damage bill of £1.3 billion will soar. The projected cost for England and Wales alone will reach £2.1-12 billion by the 2080s. These figures only account for property damage.

3. Already vulnerable to extreme weather

The UK has already shown itself to be vulnerable to extreme weather events. The DEFRA reports states that even if you don’t take climate change into account, more action is needed to protect against heavy rains, storms and extreme temperatures.

4. Less winter deaths, more heatwave deaths

Deaths in related to the cold during winter will fall by 3900-24,000 by the 2050s. However, premature deaths in the summer will increase by 580-5900 by the same period.

5. Sensitive ecosystems

Ecosystem health will not fair as well as human health. While some species will benefit, many more will be negatively affected.

forestry, agriculture, climate change, defra

Seasonal drought and new diseases will impact forestry and agriculture negatively (Source: Flickr/JoostJBannerIJMuiden)

6. Not a drop to drink

Water resources will be under increasing pressure in the UK, by 2050s, 27-59 million people will live in areas suffering from water scarcity. Water efficiency action will be required.

7. New opportunities for business and agriculture

Again, while new doors open, they won’t outweigh the damage. If successful water management can be implemented there will be opportunities for new crop growth. Businesses will find new markets for products that directly serve mitigation and adaptation.

8. Indirect effects

Larger climate risks internationally will have indirect consequences for the UK such as supply chain interference, global health and political stability

9. Flexibility required

Evidence sufficient to accept identify a range of possible outcomes to inform policies. Policymakers must allow a degree of flexibility

10. More work needed

Significant gaps in evidence still exist. Defra says further work is required to understand the relationships between different climate risks and pressures such as population growth and land-use change.

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