Prepare for climate change | The Jackal

31 Jan 2012

Prepare for climate change

Everybody should have heard by now about the biggest challenge humanity has ever faced; climate change. Increasing temperatures, rising sea levels and more extreme weather patterns are just a few of the now obvious side effects.

Perhaps the most damaging of all adverse effects from the approximately 29 million TMT+ of CO2 released into the atmosphere each year by humans is heavy precipitation events that can cause devastating flooding.

It seems every few days we hear about more instances of flooding. South East Asia, Southern Pakistan, Northwestern Australia and Southern Brazil all experienced severe flooding in January this year alone... with the cost for such events often massive.

Last Thursday, the Independent reported:

New research commissioned by the Government shows that if no further plans are made to adapt to changing flood risks, as temperatures rise and population grows, by the 2080s damage to buildings and property could reach £12bn per year, compared with current costs of £1.2bn. In the worst-case scenario, five million people could be affected. Flooding is regarded as the most serious of 100 separate challenges from a changing climate to Britain's economy, society and natural environment, which have been identified in a comprehensive new study, the Climate Change Risk Assessment (CCRA).

These include increased health problems for vulnerable people in hotter summers, increased pressure on the UK's water resources, droughts affecting farmers and the potential introduction of new pests and diseases.

The study says that if no further precautions are taken, the number of people affected by flooding is likely to hit between 1.66 million and 3.64 million annually by the 2050s, and by 2.43 million to 4.98 million by the 2080s.

It is significant that of the many problems posed by climate change, flooding is now seen as the most important. The man behind the CCRA, Sir Bob Watson, Chief Scientific Adviser at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, said. "I think the flooding issue is the most dominant."

However, this seems at odds with the Government's spending priorities, as expenditure on flood defence has been cut by 27 per cent from the last Labour administration's £354m annually, to £259m a year for the next four years. "Ministers are playing Russian roulette with people's homes and businesses by cutting too far, too fast," the shadow Environment Secretary, Mary Creagh, said.

Of course a common reaction many climate change deniers have to such information is that the scientists are just "fear-mongering" and it is somehow a worldwide conspiracy. This response is becoming even more tenuous in the face of now overwhelming scientific evidence that climate change is predominantly a man made phenomenon.

The Climate Change Risk Assessment (PDF) isn't all doom and gloom though, as it outlines a progressive approach the tourism, horticulture and food production industries (to name a few the report covers), can take to limit the adverse effects of climate change.