UK national assessment of preparedness for climate disruption says action needed now


The UK is poorly prepared for the impacts of global climate disruption, says the independent body that advises the UK government on climate adaptation in a report released today. This first UK national assessment concludes that, with the impacts already being felt in the UK, government and citizens must start preparing now.How well prepared is the UK for climate change? asks the title of a report released today by the Adaptation Subcommittee of the Committee on Climate Change established under the UK Climate Change Act of 2008.

Executive Summary

Full text of report (3.4 MB)

From the official press release:

Be prepared: the UK should act now to adapt to climate change

…Climate change is already having an impact in the UK. Since the 1970s, average annual temperatures have risen by 1 degree C, and Spring arrives 11 days earlier. These impacts are likely to increase as a result of future climate change, with the incidence of extreme weather events such as floods, heat-waves and droughts becoming more frequent. The UK needs to start taking action to prepare for these impacts, ensuring that we have the resilience to cope with climate change.

The Committee stressed that adaptation is not an alternative to mitigation but complements our continued and essential efforts to reduce emissions by 80% in 2050. Adaptation is about adjusting the way that we do things to ensure that we are prepared.

The Committee found that some progress has been made by government in raising awareness, but crucially, that very little tangible action has taken place on the ground. The emphasis should therefore now be on moving from talking about adaptation to taking action in 5 priority areas:

1.  Land use planning – locating properties, infrastructure and green space strategically e.g. not building new homes on flood-plains, maximising use of green space in cities to help manage surface water drainage and to cope with rising temperatures and heat waves.

2.  Infrastructure – designing infrastructure (power stations, roads and railways, wat treatment works and flood barriers) with climate change in mind, to ensure that it can cope with rising temperatures and is resilient to storms, floods and droughts, and changing patterns of consumer demand.

3.  Buildings – designing and renovating homes and buildings so they can cope with rising temperatures and droughts/ floods.

4.  Natural resources – managing natural resources sustainably by using water more efficiently, setting up ecological networks and habitat bridges so that species can adapt and move as the climate changes; and making space for water along rivers and the coast.

5.  Emergency planning – planning and risk management so that emergency services can better cope with natural disasters e.g. floods. For example, using weather forecasts to anticipate extreme weather events, ensuring care is available for vulnerable people during floods or heat waves, e.g. the elderly.

Recent research suggests that taking measures to adapt to climate change could halve costs of climate change, and that the costs of failing to adapt will outweigh the costs of acting in the short term.

In addition, the UK stands to benefit from new economic opportunities if it plans for these now. For example, lengthened growing seasons will make growing exotic crops like apricots, walnuts, champagne and wine more viable. UK businesses could benefit by developing products and services that will be required in the retrofit of old buildings and to improve the resilience of supply chains.

Chair of the Adaptation Sub-Committee on Climate Change, Lord John Krebs:

“The UK must start acting now to prepare for climate change. If we wait, it will be too late. It is not necessarily about spending more, but about spending smart and investing to save. If we get it right, we can save money in the short term and avoid large extra costs in the future. The time has come to move from talking to acting.”

Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Caroline Spelman said:

“Climate Change is an absolute priority for this government. The UK is committed to reducing our greenhouse gas emissions, but must also accept that some climate change is inevitable and already happening.

“The effects of this — such as heavy rainfall and flooding, heat-waves, and droughts present a real challenge to infrastructure and business continuity. So in [the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs] we want to help communities and businesses prepare now in order to cope with the challenges which lie ahead.”

In 2011 the Sub-Committee will provide develop a further assessment of preparedness against this more detailed monitoring framework, together with formal advice on the Climate Change Risk Assessment, as required in the Climate Change Act.

Risks as a function of global mean temperature

From the UK Guardian coverage September 16:

UK poorly prepared for impact of global warming, climate watchdog warns

Report from government’s climate advisers warns that homes and infrastructure are at risk unless urgent action is taken to ‘future-proof’ the country

The UK’s homes, power stations, roads and water supplies are at risk from flooding, drought and heat waves unless the government takes urgent action to “future-proof” the country, the national climate change watchdog warned today.

The first national assessment of the country’s readiness for the impacts of global warming has found the UK was very poorly prepared for the changes, with fewer than one in 15 companies, local authorities and other public bodies taking action to tackle the issue, it says.

“It’s the typical British disease that we’re good at talking and planning, but less good at acting,” said Lord John Krebs, the chairman of the report group. “All too often adaptation is name-checked in policies but it’s not clear what that means on the ground.”

The report, by the Climate Change Committee’s adaptation sub-committee, also calls for speedy action by the government to introduce regulations and funding before it is too late….

“If we wait it will be too late,” said Krebs, “the consequence for the nation could be that very soon costs are imposed on households and businesses on the one hand, but on the other hand there are some real business opportunities here that the government could facilitate.”…

Krebs said there was no reason that a major report on adaptation should detract from ministers’ focus on also reducing emissions, and no sign so far that was happening. “This is not a shift in emphasis,” he said. “They are twin tracks: we need mitigation and adaptation.”…

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