climate change

Five ways to prepare Britain for climate change

How well prepared are we for climate change? That’s a question the government has been asking, and last week their advisory panel the Committee on Climate Change delivered their verdict.

Britain’s climate is already changing. The annual average temperature has risen 1 degree Celsius since 1970. Spring arrives 11 days earlier. As the century progresses, these trends will continue. We can also expect more extreme weather events, including floods, heat-waves and drought, and we’ll need to adapt to the new conditions, building resilience, as well as working to mitigate the worst effects of climate change while we still have a chance.

In it’s report, which you can read in full here, the committee suggests five areas to focus on:

  1. Planning – we’re going to be smarter in our planning, making sure we use land well. The report highlights stopping new housing projects on flood plains, for example. Green space in urban areas should be protected, as it helps to cool urban space during heatwaves, and absorbs water during heavy rainfall.
  2. Infrastructure – all future infrastructure, from power stations to road and railways, water treatment plants, etc, needs to be built with climate change in mind, making them resilient to heavy storms, floods and droughts.
  3. Buildings – the same applies to our buildings, which need to designed to handle more extreme weather, making them easier to cool, and safer from flooding. Older buildings will need renovation to the same standards. 55,000 homes were affected by the floods in 2007, costing the economy £3.2 billion. Safeguarding against floods can avoid similar disasters.
  4. Natural resources – water is the urgent priority here, ensuring that we are using it efficiently. The report also considers Britain’s biodiversity part of our national resources, and recommends wildlife corridors and habitat bridges so that species can adapt and move safely to the changing climate.
  5. Emergency planning – we’re going to need contingency planning and risk management so that when natural disasters strike, we know who and what to prioritise. For example, protecting the elderly during heat waves, or using weather forecasts to keep relevant response teams on alert.
The point of all of this preparation is to avoid being caught by surprise. The damages, both physical and financial, will be more severe if we’re unprepared. Every sensible decision now makes future adaptation easier, and by planning ahead, these kinds of preparations can be business opportunities rather than panic responses.
We are already on the case, the report finds. Information is broadly available. It’s just not quite translating into action just yet.
  • For more on climate change in Britain, see Marek Kohn’s book Turned out Nice.

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