Researcher warns UK is unprepared for climate change

Action to improve the UK’s climate resilience is inadequate and fails to keep pace with global warming and associated risks, says an independent report from the Climate Change Committee (CCC) – co-authored by University of Oxford researcher Dr Pam Berry of the Environmental Change Institute.

The Independent Assessment of UK Climate Risk (CCRA3) identifies eight risk areas that need to be addressed within two years, as follows:

  1. Risks to the viability and diversity of terrestrial and freshwater habitats and species from multiple hazards
  2. Risks to soil health from increased flooding and drought
  3. Risks to natural carbon stores and sequestration from multiple hazards, leading to increased emissions
  4. Risks to crops, livestock and commercial trees from multiple climate hazards
  5. Risks to supply of food, goods and vital services due to climate-related collapse of supply chains and distribution networks
  6. Risks to people and the economy from climate-related failure of the power system
  7. Risks to human health, wellbeing and productivity from increased exposure to heat in homes and other buildings
  8. Multiple risks to the UK from climate change impacts overseas

The authors also criticise the government for building over half a million homes that cannot handle future high temperatures since the CCC’s last assessment five years ago.

Dr Pam Berry said: ‘It is important that we take greater adaptation action now to avoid current and potential future impacts of climate change.

‘One way to do this is through nature-based solutions which protect, sustainably manage and restore natural or modified ecosystems whilst benefiting human well-being and biodiversity. In urban environments, increasing green spaces provides habitats for species and opportunities for species to move, as well as decreasing temperatures.

‘However, it is also critical to address the causes of climate change through mitigation. Thus, first and foremost we need to reduce our energy demand, but also to protect or enhance our natural carbon stores, again through protecting and restoring our carbon-rich ecosystems, including woodlands, peatlands, wetlands and marine ecosystems, such as seagrass and kelp.’

The Government will have an important role to play in building up the UK’s climate resilience and must deliver fit-for-purpose plans and policies to support good adaptation planning across the country, says the assessment.

The authors add that ministers have not taken the CCC’s advice on the importance of implementing such measures, and this would need to change urgently.

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