With 2016 confirmed as the hottest year on record, the government has released a new climate change risk assessment covering issues like flooding, water shortages, food protection and trade.
The Climate Change Risk Assessment 2017 – the UK’s first in five years – outlines the challenges facing the UK economy, environment and public health, using evidence from the independent Committee on Climate Change (CCC).
The report warns that the trend towards warmer winters, hotter summers and changing rainfall patters means the UK could face more widespread flooding, heatwaves and disruption to food supplies and power in future.
According to the Met Office, 2016 was the warmest year on record, nominally exceeding the record-break average temperatures experienced a year earlier.
Lord Krebs, chair of the CCC’s adaptation sub-committee, said: “The ten hottest years on record, in terms of global average temperature, have occurred in the last two decades. The consequent risks for the UK, such as more extreme flooding and storms, are real and in some cases already apparent.”
The UK’s progress on adapting to climate change since its first National Adaptation Programme in 2013 includes investing £2.5 billion in flood defences, strengthening planning policy to encourage the use of sustainable draining systems, and producing a heatwave plan to respond to extreme heat events such as the one experienced across Europe in 2003.
Defra minister Lord Gardiner said: “Our changing climate is one of the most serious environmental challenges that we face as a nation and that is why we are taking action, from improving flood defences across the country to securing our critical food and water supplies.
“The latest assessment will help us develop our long-term programme to tackle these risks so we can continue our work to protect the nation better today and for future generations.”
The new risk assessment identifies six urgent priority areas over the next five years: flooding and coastal change; dealing with high temperatures; water shortages; declining natural capital; risks to food protection, trade and supply chains; and pests, diseases and invasive non-native species.
Flooding in particular has become a key concern in the North West, with the winter floods of 2015-16 causing damage to more than 1,000 businesses.
CLASP, a sustainability support service for local authorities, has recently published two guides to help urban and rural SMEs in the North West to improve their resilience to extreme weather and ensure a competitive advantage in adverse conditions.