Hundreds of people could die in floods in the UK, the Environment Agency has warned in a hard-hitting report that says the country is not ready for the impact of climate change.
Earlier this year in Germany, dozens of people died in floods.
“That will happen in this country sooner or later” unless the UK becomes more resilient to increasingly violent weather, the agency concludes.
Emma Howard Boyd, chair of the agency, said: “It is adapt or die.”
The apocalyptic tone is deliberately intended to startle governments, companies, and communities into preparing for global warming effects such as higher sea levels and more extremes of rainfall and drought.
We are currently heading for an increase in the global average temperature of just under 3C by the end of the century.
But the agency projects that even a smaller rise of 2C would have severe consequences:
- Winter rainfall up by 6% by the 2050s and 8% by the 2080s (compared with 1981-2000)
- Summer rainfall down by about 15% by the 2050s
- London’s sea level up by 23cm by the 2050s and 45cm by the 2080s
- By the 2050s, peak river flows could be up 27% while summer flows could be down as much as 82%
- An extra 3.4 billion liters of extra water are needed every day before 2050, on top of the 15 billion used now
According to Ms. Howard Boyd: “We can successfully tackle the climate emergency if we do the right things, but we are running out of time to implement effective adaptation measures.
“Some 200 people died in this summer’s flooding in Germany. That will happen in this country sooner or later, however high we build our flood defenses – unless we also make the places where we live, work, and travel resilient to the effects of the more violent weather the climate emergency is bringing.”
COP26 climate summit – The basics
- Climate change is one of the world’s most pressing problems. Governments must promise more ambitious cuts in warming gases if we are to prevent greater global temperature rises.
- The summit in Glasgow is where change could happen. You need to watch for the promises made by the world’s biggest polluters, like the US and China, and whether poorer countries are getting the support they need.
- All our lives will change. Decisions made here could impact our jobs, how we heat our homes, what we eat, and how we travel.
The agency calls for new thinking on flood protection, closer partnerships between government and businesses, and projects to restore natural systems that absorb carbon and hold back rainwater.
Ms. Howard Boyd added: “With the right approach we can be safer and more prosperous. So let’s prepare, act and survive.”
The loss of life in Germany last July is a reminder of the last time flooding led to a massive death toll in the UK.
Back in 1953, a storm surge killed 307 people in England and 19 in Scotland.
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