UK failing to protect against climate dangers, advisers warn | Climate change

UK failing to protect against climate dangers, advisers warn | Climate change


The UK government is failing to protect people from the fast-rising risks of the climate crisis, from deadly heatwaves to power blackouts, its official climate advisers have warned.

The climate change committee said action to improve the nation’s resilience is not keeping pace with the impacts of global heating, many of which are already causing harm. The CCC’s experts said they were frustrated by the “absolutely illogical” lack of sufficient action on adaptation, particularly as acting is up to 10 times more cost-effective than not doing so.

They said climate change was here now. In 2020’s heatwave, 2,500 people died in the UK, but the CCC said the government had not heeded their warnings for more than a decade that homes must be made easier to cool, such as by using shutters.

Cutting carbon emissions remained vital to avoid the worst climate impacts, the CCC said, but some were inevitable. It highlighted a series of risks that required action within two years at the latest. These included damage to woodlands and peatlands by high temperatures and drought that would prevent the UK meeting its goal of net zero emissions by 2050, because these areas would be unable to remove CO2 from the atmosphere.

“Adaptation remains the Cinderella of climate change, still sitting in rags by the stove: under-resourced, underfunded and often ignored,” said Baroness Brown, the chair of the CCC’s adaptation committee. “Not only is it essential that we do adaptation, but it also provides economic benefit. So it’s absolutely illogical that we are not doing it.”

“Our particular frustration is that after the last climate-change risk assessment in 2016, the adaptation plan that was published was really inadequate,” she said. “It didn’t address many of the risks highlighted and it wasn’t in any way action focused. A detailed, effective action plan that prepares the UK for climate change is now essential and needed urgently.”

Chris Stark, the CCC’s chief executive, said there was a “wilful reluctance” of ministers to factor adaptation into their policies: “That’s because it’s hard, it doesn’t fit with the [five-year] political cycle and it doesn’t have the glamour of net zero attached to it. The government has got to get real about it.”

The CCC’s report is based on an independent 1,500-page analysis by 450 experts from 130 organisations that provides a comprehensive view of the climate-change risks faced by the UK.

“Alarmingly, this new evidence shows the gap between the level of risk we face and the level of adaptation under way has widened,” it said. “The UK has the capacity and the resources to respond effectively, yet it has not done so.”

The assessment considered 53 risks linked to future temperature rises of between 2C and 4C of global heating and found there was sufficient adaptation under way for only four. Even if heating was limited to 2C, an optimistic scenario, the number of risks with annual costs in the billions per year would triple by the 2080s, the CCC said.

The report highlights the impact of heatwaves on human health and productivity, particularly in homes, hospitals and care homes that are unable to remain cool. Since the 2016 assessment, more than 570,000 new homes have been built that are not resilient to high temperatures and a further 1.5m such homes are due to be built in the next five years unless building policy is changed to improve ventilation and shading. More heat is also increasing costly home subsidence in some regions, with 10,000 homes affected after the 2018 heatwave.

The vulnerability of the power grid to flooding, storms and lack of cooling water is also highlighted, with the impact of future blackouts likely to be even more severe with cars and home heating becoming increasingly electrified. Another risk is that extreme weather overseas could break supply chains for food imported by the UK.

Nature and wildlife are also at risk from the climate crisis, with knock-on effects for people if ecosystems cannot absorb carbon and soak up water to reduce flood risk. The CCC said the UK will require 80m tonnes of CO2 a year to be removed from the air by 2050 to compensate for sectors unable to completely decarbonise, such as aviation.

“We cannot expect nature to mop up all that carbon if it’s too hot and too dry for the trees to grow,” said Stark. Restoring nature now so it can survive future climate impacts is vital, the CCC said.

Peatlands can store huge amounts of carbon but Kathryn Brown, at the CCC, said they were “liable to collapse” with heat and drought if in poor condition. Today only about 5% of upland peat is in good condition and the UK’s recent commitments will restore only another 5%, she said. “We need to see 100% restoration by 2045.”

The Met Office’s Prof Richard Betts, a lead author of the technical report, said he had been struck by the projected increases in landslides during heavier rainstorms, in places such as railway embankments and coal waste tips in Wales.

The CCC report said there would be potential climate benefits in a hotter UK, such as longer growing seasons and reduced number of deaths due to winter cold and lower home heating bills. But these were far outweighed by the negative impacts, it said.

The CCC’s last risk assessment in 2016 warned the UK was poorly prepared for water shortages and floods, and while further adaptation action was needed, some had been taken. In 2019, the CCC repeated its warnings that the UK had no proper plans for protecting people from heatwaves, flash flooding and other impacts of the climate crisis.

A government spokesperson said: “We welcome this report and will consider its recommendations closely as we continue to demonstrate global leadership on climate change ahead of COP26 in November.” The government is consulting on regulations to reduce the risk of overheating in new residential buildings.



Source link

Similar Articles

Comments

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Advertismentspot_img

Instagram

Most Popular