Tyndall Newcastle and UEA authors lead on new report of climate change risks to UK

The ‘UK Climate Change Risk Assessment Evidence Report’ reveals that the impacts of climate change are already being felt in the UK, and that urgent action is required to address climate-related risks.

The new independent report to Government, from the Committee on Climate Change’s Adaptation Sub-Committee, sets out the most urgent risks and opportunities arising for the UK from climate change.

The report is the result of more than three years of work involving hundreds of leading scientists and experts from the public and private sectors and civil society, including Professor Rachel Warren of Tyndall UEA and Professor Richard Dawson of Tyndall Newcastle.

Prof. Warren said: “This is an evidence-based report which provides an up-to-date assessment of the risks that climate change poses to the UK, and assesses the urgency of addressing each of them.
“Examples of risks include flooding, heatwaves, and risks to natural ecosystems.  The report will be a real asset in enabling decisions to be made about where and when the UK needs to invest in adaptation to climate change.”
Prof. Dawson said “Unless action is taken, the UK’s infrastructure will become increasingly susceptible to extreme weather events.”
The risk assessment has been peer-reviewed by UK and international specialists. The report reveals how changes to the UK climate are likely to include periods of too much or too little water, increasing average and extreme temperatures, and sea level rise.
It concludes that the most urgent risks for the UK resulting from these changes are:
  • Flooding and coastal change risks to communities, businesses and infrastructure.
  • Risks to health, wellbeing and productivity from high temperatures.
  • Risk of shortages in the public water supply, and water for agriculture, energy generation and industry, with impacts on freshwater ecology.
  • Risks to natural capital, including terrestrial, coastal, marine and freshwater ecosystems, soils and biodiversity.
  • Risks to domestic and international food production and trade.
  • Risks of new and emerging pests and diseases, and invasive non-native species, affecting people, plants and animals.
The opportunities for the UK from climate change include:
  • UK agriculture and forestry may be able to increase production with warmer weather and longer growing seasons, if constraints such as water availability and soil fertility are managed.
  • There may be economic opportunities for UK businesses from an increase in global demand for adaptation-related goods and services, such as engineering and insurance.
Prof. Warren added: “This report improves upon the previous climate change risk assessment by considering the adaptation steps that people have already taken, or are planning to take, to protect the UK from these risks; and also by looking at the risks from the point of view of what is actually affected on the ground, rather than being a sector-based analysis.”
Lord Krebs, chair of the Adaptation Sub-Committee of the Committee on Climate Change, said: “The impacts of climate change are becoming ever clearer, both in the United Kingdom and around the world. We must take action now to prepare for the further, inevitable changes we can expect.
“Our independent assessment today, supported by the work of hundreds of scientists and other experts, identifies the most urgent climate change risks and opportunities which need to be addressed. Delaying or failing to take appropriate steps will increase the costs and risks for all UK nations arising from the changing climate.”
The impact of the recent vote to leave the European Union does not change the overall conclusions of the risk assessment. However, some individual risks may change if EU-derived policies and legislation are withdrawn and not replaced by equivalent or better UK measures. The Adaptation Sub-Committee will assess the implications of the EU referendum in its next statutory report to Parliament on the UK National Adaptation Programme, due to be published in June 2017.

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